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Springbok Watch: Players in the Spotlight v Tonga

Quintin van Jaarsveld identifies five Springbok players who’ll be in the spotlight in their crunch final World Cup pool game against Tonga in Marseille on Sunday night.

Springbok Players Spotlight Tonga

Quintin van Jaarsveld identifies five Springbok players who’ll be in the spotlight in their crunch final World Cup pool game against Tonga in Marseille on Sunday night.

Deon Fourie

Fourie’s career has had many twists and turns. He was a capable hooker for the Stormers for most of his career, however, it’s his second act as a loose forward that saw him rise to historic heights as the oldest Springbok debutant of all time at 35. 

Now 37, his career will come full circle on Sunday as he starts in the No 2 green and gold jersey for the first time in what’s his 10th Test. Malcolm Marx’s injury and the decision to call up Handre Pollard in his place has left the Boks with just one recognised hooker in Bongi Mbonambi and Fourie, who doubled as third-choice hooker cover, now has to come to the party. 

He hit the mark with four of his five lineout throws off the bench in the 13-8 loss to Ireland last weekend but the one that went skew was extremely costly as it was five metres out from the Irish try line and at a crucial time. As a smaller, savvy ball poacher, he’ll play a key role at the breakdown, an area Ireland dominated, but his main mission will be to be on target with his throw-ins. 

The same is true for Marco van Staden, who’ll don the No 16 jersey for the first time. 

Marvin Orie

With Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert back to their best as a combination, Lood de Jager on the mend, the success of Jean Kleyn and RG Snyman, collectively known as “The Munster Monsters” as a tandem off the bench and the likes of Salmaan Moerat and Ruan Nortje waiting in the wings, there’s a good chance that this will be the last time we see Orie in the green and gold. 

The 30-year-old, who’ll join French club Perpignan from the Stormers after the World Cup, made his Bok debut in the historic 22-20 loss to Wales in Washington DC in 2018, has 15 Test caps to his name and will be determined to make the most of the opportunity in Marseille. 

Duane Vermeulen

In another “out-of-the-Boks” bit of thinking by Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber, Vermeulen will start at blindside flank rather than in his usual role of eighthman. 

In 72 Tests, the veteran has started on the side of the scrum just time, in back-to-back games on the 2018 end-of-year tour. The Boks lost the first of these games 12-11 to England at Twickenham before pipping France 29-26 in Paris. 

Physicality has been the buzz work in the Bok camp all week and this is why the coaches have gone with the otherwise unbalanced back row of Siya Kolisi, who’ll be playing in his 50th Test as captain, and Jasper Wiese. 

It’s risky employing both of your specialist No 8s in what promises to be a brutal battle ahead of the playoffs, and the thought process is most likely for Vermeulen to help soften up the Pacific Islanders in the first 40 to 50 minutes and then to yank him off and have speed demon Kwagga Smith to do his thing. 

Handre Pollard

All eyes will be on Pollard as he makes his much-anticipated return to the Bok fold.  The 29-year-old, who piloted South Africa to a third World Cup title in 2019, last featured for the Boks in the 25-17 loss to Australia in Adelaide last August due to injury. 

The world champions have played 16 Tests since then with Damian Willemse starting half of them in the No 10 jersey, Manie Libbok in seven and Frans Steyn in one. With Libbok as the frontline flyhalf this season, the Boks have had an extra sting in their tail offensively but his and the other goal-kickers’ erratic form off the tee has been an ongoing issue that cost them dearly in last weekend’s loss to Ireland. 

Will Pollard, who’s been a banker shot-slotter for the Boks his whole career, be an immediate fix? Erasmus has warned fans not to expect wonders from Pollard in his comeback game and it’s a fair call as he only just returned for his English club Leicester after having spent four-and-a-half months on the sidelines with a calf injury.

It was a satisfactory 30-odd-minute performance off the bench all things considered as he helped the Tigers claim an 18-14 win over the Sale Sharks two weeks ago, but it remains to be seen how he copes in his reintroduction to the greater speed and intensity of Test rugby.  

It’s not so much a flawless goal-kicking effort that Erasmus and Nienaber will want out of Pollard but rather him getting through 60 minutes or so unscathed, during which he hopefully shows his tactical acumen. 

Canan Moodie

The Moodie midfield experiment continues and I’m all for it. The prodigy looked the part when he was shifted from the wing into the No 13 jersey in his last two Tests – against New Zealand and Romania respectively – and his combination of speed, skill and size makes him a solid option to man the midfield alongside Andre Esterhuizen against the big Tongans. 

The 20-year-old’s more than a stopgap, though. While the experienced Jesse Kriel has filled the injured Lukhanyo Am’s boots well this season and is the favourite to start in the likely quarterfinal clash against hosts France alongside Damian de Allende, Moodie brings an x-factor that would give Les Bleus plenty to think about, so a standout showing might just see him hold onto the starting berth. 

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Grant Williams, 13 Canan Moodie, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Duane Vermeulen, 6 Siya Kolisi (Captain), 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Ox Nche

Replacements: 16 Marco van Staden, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Jesse Kriel, 23 Manie Libbok.

Quintin Van Jaarsveld is a former MDDA-Sanlam SA Local Sports Journalist of the Year and a former three-time Vodacom KwaZulu-Natal Sports Journalist of the Year. Formerly the sports editor and Outstanding Journalist of the Year award winner at The Fever Media Group, deputy editor at eHowzit, editor at and senior staff writer at, he boasts over 15 years’ experience and is currently a freelance sports writer.

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