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Springbok Watch: Players in the Spotlight v Romania

Quintin van Jaarsveld identifies five Springbok players who’ll be in the spotlight in the World Cup pool game against Romania in Bordeaux on Sunday.

Springbok Spotlight Romania World Cup

Quintin van Jaarsveld identifies five Springbok players who’ll be in the spotlight in the World Cup pool game against Romania in Bordeaux on Sunday.

Jean Kleyn

Four years after representing Ireland at the World Cup, Kleyn returns to the grandest stage of them all as a Springbok. 

He’s the first to do so for South Africa under World Rugby’s new eligibility rules and I have the feeling he’ll mark the occasion with a try. 

The physical and industrious second-rower has slotted in seamlessly at the Boks and upped his game in each of his four Tests and you can bet he’ll go all out against the Oaks.

Damian Willemse

Having played the last five Tests in his more familiar role of fullback, the versatile Willemse shifts into the thick of the action and starts in the No 10 jersey for the first time since the 35-20 loss to the All Blacks in Albany in July. 

Such a gifted player, Willemse’s athleticism and bag of tricks could translate into some special plays on Sunday. An important part of his performance will be his goal-kicking as first-choice flyhalf Manie Libbok continues to struggle in that department.

Andre Esterhuizen

Expect a massive game from the midfield monster whose red-hot form sees him entering the encounter as a ravenous apex predator. 

Poor Romania don’t know what’s coming their way – a fired-up freak athlete whose ambition to wrestle the No 12 jumper from Damian de Allende will see him go full tilt and show no mercy.

Grant Williams

The big talking point this week isn’t the overhauling of the team as Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber were always going to ring the changes for this meeting with the minnows. 

Rather, it’s the inclusion of all four scrumhalves in the matchday squad with Cobus Reinach starting at No 9, Williams on the right wing and Jaden Hendrikse and Faf de Klerk on the bench, the latter as flyhalf cover.

Williams is arguably the fastest scrumhalf in world rugby and can give wingers a run for their money, so there’s no doubt he has the speed to serve as a makeshift flyer. The same is true when it comes to his footwork; he’s stepped and swerved his way to the try line plenty of times for the Sharks. 

It’s the technical side of things where the risk factor comes in. While a good defender, the one-on-one looks on the wings are much different to the blanket role of a scrumhalf and fielding up-and-unders under pressure could theoretically be an issue. I say theoretically as neither should be of much concern against the Romanians, with respect. 

He does have some experience in the position, having played there for much of his schoolboy career and having provided cover there off the bench for the Boks, so getting more game time there can’t hurt.

Faf de Klerk

De Klerk may be starting on the bench, but his is one of the key selections as he’s set to be given a run at flyhalf in the second half. 

At the time of writing, it was yet to be announced who’ll replace Malcolm Marx, who’s been ruled out for the remainder of the tournament with a knee injury he sustained during training. 

If it’s Handre Pollard, the pressure will be off and De Klerk could just have a go, but if not, his performance will carry more importance as it’ll mean he’ll get experience as the emergency third-choice flyhalf cover. 

Either way, his cameo at ten – where he played a lot of his schoolboy rugby and on occasion for the Lions and the Sale Sharks – will be interesting to watch. 

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Grant Williams, 13 Canan Moodie, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bongi Mbonambi (captain), 1 Ox Nche.

Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Jaden Hendrikse, 22 Faf de Klerk, 23 Jesse Kriel.

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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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