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Springbok Watch: Players In The Spotlight v New Zealand At Ellis Park – Round 2

Quintin van Jaarsveld identifies the Springbok players who’ll be in the spotlight in the Rugby Championship clash against New Zealand in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Quintin van Jaarsveld identifies the Springbok players who’ll be in the spotlight in the Rugby Championship clash against New Zealand in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Ox Nche

The lover of cake comes back into the starting line-up in place of Trevor Nyakane and will be eager to whip up a sweet performance. With the Springbok selectors being spoilt for choice, competition for places is fierce across the board but doubly so in the front row.

Failing to fire is not an option, especially for Nche who with his 10 Test appearances, is the second-least experienced of the seven props in the current squad. Fortunately for the Sharks fan favourite, he’s made the most of every opportunity he’s had and Saturday should be no different.

Joseph Dweba

In a surprising move, Dweba was on Wednesday brought straight into the run-on side following the withdrawal of Bongi Mbonambi as a precautionary measure after the veteran took a knock to his knee during Tuesday’s training session.

With Malcolm Marx coming off a legendary performance in what was his 50th Test last weekend, he seemed the obvious choice to start but the Kubota Spears ace will make an impact off the bench instead.

Dweba is a Test rugby greenhorn, having only made two Springbok appearances – against Wales in Bloemfontein in July and Argentina in Nelson Mandela Bay last year – but his familiarity with Ox Nche, whom he’s packed down with since his schoolboy days at HTS Louis Botha and in almost 100 first-class games for the Cheetahs is what prompted his promotion, explained coach Jacques Nienaber. 

A tank of a man renowned for his barnstorming carries, Dweba will be a beast unleashed as he takes on the All Blacks for the first time.

Frans Malherbe

As a quiet and humble hard man, it suits Malherbe just fine that he’s been a silent assassin and one of the unsung heroes of the Springboks since entering the Test arena in the 24-15 win over Wales in Cardiff in 2013.

He’ll be uncomfortable with the spotlight that’s on him this week as he brings up his Springbok half-century on Saturday but the front-rower deserves his flowers for what’s been a phenomenal nine seasons in the national side.

It’s milestones like these that prompt reflection and appreciation of a player’s career. When one considers everything Malherbe’s already achieved and that he’s currently the best tighthead in the world, it dawns on you that he’s added his name to the list of legendary Springbok tightheads and at 31, there’s plenty more to come from the 1.9m, 125kg behemoth.

An old school destroyer with a new school engine, Malherbe is a monster among men at scrum time and a grafter of note in general play. Come kick-off, he’ll be able to put the interviews behind him and get to work and those who usually miss his immense contributions may well realise just how special he truly is.

Duane Vermeulen

Pro sport is a rapidly-changing beast on the field and a “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” business in many supporters’ minds. As the pride of Mzanzi, the Springboks are at the pinnacle of public expectations and fans, unfortunately, can often be fickle.

Time on the sidelines can, therefore, be a double whammy for injured players, even for a legend like Vermeulen, who missed last month’s three-Test series against Wales due to knee surgery. The simultaneous rise of Evan Roos and Elrigh Louw has some calling for the warhorse to make way for the new breed ahead of next year’s World Cup.

These fans fail to realise the all-encompassing role Vermeulen fulfills in the overall Springbok set-up and that the 36-year-old still has plenty to offer on the park. With Jasper Wiese having blown hot and cold in his absence, the returning enforcer has an opportunity to remind of his class.   

Jesse Kriel

Perhaps no player will be under more scrutiny from Springbok supporters than Kriel with the midfielder set to wing it once again. The void on the right wing is one South Africa can’t seem to keep filled in recent weeks, losing Cheslin Kolbe to a broken jaw in July and Kurt-Lee Arendse to a four-week suspension for his horrific mid-air collision with Beauden Barrett last Saturday.

Kriel’s selection isn’t the most exciting as he lacks the flair and out-and-out pace of a specialist winger, but one can understand why, with his unrivalled experience, he’s being backed to step in at No 14, a role he covered throughout the 2021 end-of-year tour and filled against the All Blacks in the past.

Still, the 52-Test veteran can expect no mercy from fans if he costs the Springboks.

South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Jesse Kriel, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ox Nche.

Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Jasper Wiese, 21 Kwagga Smith, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Willie le Roux.

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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