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Springbok Watch: Players in the Spotlight v Ireland

Quintin van Jaarsveld identifies five Springbok players who’ll be in the spotlight in the second Test against Six Nations winners Ireland at Kings Park on Saturday.


Quintin van Jaarsveld identifies five Springbok players who’ll be in the spotlight in the second Test against Six Nations winners Ireland at Kings Park on Saturday.

Frans Malherbe

Malherbe has been such a dependable powerhouse over the years that nothing less than dominance is expected from him and his fellow front-rowers.

His current form is out of the ordinary and led to the Boks not having the overwhelming success at scrum time they were expected to have last weekend. That only came when the famed Bomb Squad were unleashed.

It’s not a serious cause for concern; rather, it’s more like an old, trusty tractor needing a bit of time to kick into gear, but with the Boks having an embarrassment of riches in the prop department, it’s interesting that Rassie Erasmus has resisted the temptation to rotate him with the in-form Vincent Koch.

Pieter-Steph du Toit

Seeing Du Toit running full tilt in the tramlines last weekend was both bizarre and a sight to behold.

It was so far removed from his usual hard, powerful carries up the guts and the product of new attack coach Tony Brown’s vision of how the double world champions can evolve.

I’m of the opinion that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, but both Du Toit and Siya Kolisi suppressed their natural instincts to migrate to the ruck and took up their new places on attack out wide exceedingly well.

It also didn’t interfere with Du Toit’s work rate with “The Malmesbury Missile” topping the tackle stats. It’ll be interesting to see how he develops in this new attacking role, starting in Durban.

Kwagga Smith

Smith had an off day at Loftus Versfeld and is perhaps the most fortunate player to retain his place in the side with Erasmus having opted for the same matchday 23 that triumphed 27-20 last weekend.

Aside from dropping two restarts, the usually bustling ball hawk failed to make an impact at the breakdown, where the Boks were thoroughly outgunned.

It could be that the energetic and versatile former Blitzbok doesn’t fit into the national puzzle at No. 8, where he’s only started three games, or what I believe to be the case – that he’s more effective as a super-sub.

Either way, he’ll look to redeem himself.

Faf de Klerk

Whereas the flankers adapted well to the new game plan, the halfback pairing battled. It’s tough to blame them as they’re so used to following the blueprint that’s proven so successful over the last six seasons. In De Klerk’s case, that meant far fewer box kicks and more lateral steps before distributing the ball.

What is fair criticism of the popular blonde-haired No. 9’s performance last weekend is that he was way too slow in clearing from the base. Often caught by Irish forwards, who to be fair got away with murder at times at the breakdown, and once throwing an intercept near the visitors’ tryline instead of taking contact and recycling, De Klerk has to have a spring in his step in the Shark Tank.

Handre Pollard

Pollard must’ve felt like he went back in time last weekend as he hadn’t done that much passing and running in a Bok jersey since his Under-20 days.

Things looked promising as he started well but lost his way. Often appearing unsure of himself, it negatively impacted his game as he made uncharacteristic mistakes, including failing to find touch with a penalty kick – which Cheslin Kolbe incredibly turned into a try – and more worryingly, missing three shots at goal, including a sitter.

The expansive game plan suits a playmaker like Manie Libbok, which had some thinking he might be brought into the side, but with Pollard staying put, he should be a bit more comfortable. To what degree we’ll have to wait and see.

Special mention must also be made of Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel, who’ll break a Springbok record on Saturday (read more about that here).

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Kurt-Lee Arendse, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche.

Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Gerhard Steenekamp, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 RG Snyman, 21 Marco van Staden, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu.

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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