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Springbok Selection Options for Quarterfinals

Springbok Selection Options for Quarterfinals

11 October 2019, by: Leonard Solms

Springbok Selection Options for Quarterfinals

As South Africa prepares for the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has been left with a dilemma: should he stick with his standard first-choice XV or throw in some of the players who impressed in Tuesday’s 66-7 win over Canada?

It is a problem which many coaches will envy him for having, but Erasmus nevertheless has some difficult decisions to make. We take a look at some of the areas in which doubt has been cast over the starters.

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Who would have thought a year ago that Malcolm Marx’s position would be under threat? Bongi Mbonambi’s overthrow against Australia last year handed victory to the Wallabies in their Rugby Championship clash and the knives were out for the Stormers hooker, although Rassie Erasmus did say he was not to blame at the time.

He has recovered tremendously and usurped Marx to start against Italy. This, of course, does not mean that he has necessarily become Erasmus’ overall first choice, but it is an indication of the trust placed in him by the Springbok coach.

Marx is a physical, pacey hooker, with Mbonambi a rolling-maul specialist. The latter has been in tremendous form since bouncing back from that Australia blip, while Marx has proven less than invincible at the lineout in recent times, so don’t bet against Mbonambi earning many more starts in the Springbok jersey.

Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert are the usual starting locks and their on-field performances have not warranted being dropped. However, RG Snyman threw a spanner in the works with his Man-of-the-Match performance against Canada.

Apart from his ability at the lineout, Snyman possesses a handy skillset with ball in hand. He’s a tough man to tackle when he gets going and a big tackler himself.

Mostert, meanwhile, consistently does the basics to perfection — making him a difficult man to dislodge in the Springbok XV.

There is also Lood de Jager, who picked up the Man of the Match prize in the 57-3 win over Namibia. He has been plagued by injuries, but might have been a starter otherwise.

Etzebeth is one of the squad’s senior players, but what counts against him is the investigation into his alleged actions in Langebaan. This might eventually lead to a change in a position where the Springboks have plenty of cover — even Pieter-Steph du Toit remains an option.

The no.9 jersey is another in which Rassie Erasmus has not one, but two players pushing for a starting role. Herschel Jantjies was already hot on Faf de Klerk’s tail due to his Rugby Championship heroics. Now, Cobus Reinach is the name on everybody’s lips.

De Klerk is a nifty player who delivers quick ball to his teammates. He has the heart and legs of a lion, but he is prone to errors. He has two potential replacements who can be absolutely electrifying on their day.

Jantjies’ rise to the top has been meteoric, but he remains raw at test level. He reads the game well for a youngster and often appears to be one step ahead of the opposition defence. In four years, Jantjies might just be one of the world’s best scrumhalves, but it is too soon to throw him into the deep end.

The form of Reinach should come as no surprise, as the former Sharks no.9 was one of two South Africans in the 2018-19 English Premiership Dream Team, the other being Mostert.

It is easy to see why Reinach has won admirers at Northampton Saints. His pace is reminiscent of his late father, Jaco Reinach. In the words of coach Erasmus, the 29-year-old “has the X-factor”. His hat-trick against Canada was the quickest in Rugby World Cup history and he is very much a potential starter.

Perhaps there is less doubt over this position than others. Handré Pollard and Elton Jantjies have been locked in a battle for the no.10 jersey for some time, but Erasmus has settled on Pollard as a regular starter.

However, Jantjies has impressed recently whenever called upon for the Springboks. He was at his breathtaking best against Canada, providing plenty of creative spark.

Pollard is capable of playing at centre, so there is the option of combining them, but it does not appear as if Lukhanyo Am or Damian de Allende are about to be dislodged any time soon.

S’bu Nkosi can consider himself mightily unfortunate not to already be a starting winger for the Springboks.

Makazole Mapimpi is prone to defensive errors, but he is a clinical finisher and has a lot to offer to the Springboks.

Cheslin Kolbe, meanwhile, is arguably the Boks’ most in-form player. He is a more creative type than Mapimpi, albeit less of a specialised predator. The diminutive Kolbe also has a lot to offer aerially and in defence.

Perhaps more than any other Springbok wide man, Nkosi has the ability to dazzle defences. His skilful runs make him almost unstoppable when in full flow.

Erasmus is likely to stick with Mapimpi and Kolbe for the time being, but at 23 years of age, Nkosi has the world at his feet.

If Erasmus does decide to bring Nkosi into the starting lineup, Kolbe can move into the no.15 jersey currently occupied by Willie le Roux.

Le Roux is among Erasmus’ less popular selections, but the coach has stuck to his guns here.

Damian Willemse threw the cat among the pigeons with an impressive performance against Canada. Having been brought into the squad as a replacement for Jesse Kriel, the 21-year-old lived up to praise of his level-headed attitude from assistant coach Mzwandile Stick.

“We’ve seen what Damian has done before for this team where he played against England at Twickenham in front of around 85 000 people,” Stick said before the Canada clash.

“A 21-year-old being able to perform at that level shows that he’s got a proper head on his shoulders.”

Willemse is another one for the future, but for now, Erasmus does not appear ready to hand him a regular starting spot.

Another option is Warrick Gelant, who impressed in the 57-3 win over Namibia. An exciting attacking player who can also play on the wing, he is one to watch but is highly unlikely to start in the big games just yet.


Leonard Solms is a sports journalist who features regularly on various local and international platforms including ESPN, New Frame, FARPost, Tagged Online and Careers Magazine, as well as this one. He enjoys the occasional bet and the most important tip he can give you is to bet within your means.

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