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Springboks Selection Barometer Part 4 – The Halfbacks

Springboks Selection Barometer – The Halfbacks. In the fourth installment of a six-part series, Quintin van Jaarsveld focuses on the all-important halfbacks

Springbok selection Lions series

We shift the spotlight to the backs as we continue to look at the depth at the Springboks’ disposal and the form of the leading local and foreign-based players in the hunt to front the British & Irish Lions.

In the fourth installment of a six-part series, Quintin van Jaarsveld focuses on the all-important halfbacks.

The Springboks’ power-based territorial game plan is heavily dependent on the decision-making and even more importantly, the accuracy, of the halfbacks. 

As a settled and complementary combination, co-pilots Faf de Klerk and Handré Pollard masterfully guided South Africa through unavoidable World Cup turbulence and stylishly landed Air Force Boks on the summit of the global game two years ago.  

Having been grounded by the pandemic since their triumph in the Land of the Rising Sun, the Springboks are finally scheduled to take flight in the Test arena again. All the playmakers who contributed on the journey through Japan are available, along with two decorated and resurgent captains and a few fresh faces.

Let’s take a closer look at the premier halfbacks vying for places in the 45-man Springboks squad set to be announced on Saturday:


Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks)

The Springboks’ star scrumhalf is one of the best No.9s in the world and is in stellar form for the Sale Sharks, where he’s evolved into the total package. A foxlike attacking livewire when he first made his name at the Lions, De Klerk’s tactical kicking and game management are world-class. His giant-slaying defensive prowess is second to none and has made him one of the most beloved players worldwide.

Herschel Jantjies (Stormers)

He hasn’t enjoyed consistent game time on a weekly basis due to injury niggles, but the Stormers sparkplug has looked sharper with every outing. While his box kicking is solid, game management generally takes time and the 25-year-old is developing at a pleasing rate. The uncanny game-breaking ability that fuelled his meteoric rise into the Springboks squad in his rookie year in 2019 will stoke South Africa’s fire in the series.

Cobus Reinach (Montpellier)

The most athletic scrumhalf at the Springboks’ disposal is also the most jacked No.9 in the world. Along with the blistering pace he inherited from his father Jaco, a former Springboks wing, his explosiveness and power make him a freak of nature. A picture is worth a thousand words and the locker room photo of him celebrating Montpellier’s recent European Challenge Cup title triumph with his teammates, following his controlling cameo off the bench to help edge the tense final, broke the internet.

Ruan Pienaar (Cheetahs)

The Cheetahs captain was one of the better performers in the team’s shock 43-35 loss to an Invitational XV at the weekend, which was the men from Bloemfontein’s first match in two months. Game time will be an issue, but the Springboks coaches know what they have in the evergreen 37-year-old – an 88-Test veteran who’s seen and done it all, including taming the Lions in 2009, which along with his form over the last few seasons, would make him a valuable squad member. 

The Rest:

Embrose Papier is arguably the next in line. He’s been in solid form and has seven Test caps to his name. His Bulls teammate Ivan van Zyl is a former Springbok as well; he hasn’t played since the Currie Cup final but is set for an imminent return to close out his time in Pretoria before joining Saracens in July.
The next tier mainly consists of ex-Springboks like Wasps-bound Francois Hougaard, Ross Cronje (Lions) and Louis Schreuder (Newcastle Falcons) along with rising stars with the promise of becoming Springboks in the future such as Zak Burger (Bulls) and Sharks young guns Jayden Hendrikse and Sanele Nohamba.


Handré Pollard (Montpellier)

The clear-cut general of the Springboks is starting to find his feet again after recently returning from a serious knee injury. Like Reinach, he came off the bench to help guide Montpellier to their 18-17 win over the Leicester Tigers in the European Challenge Cup decider, demonstrating the clutch demeanour that saw him steer the Boks to World Cup glory and makes him the highest-paid player in the world. South African supporters are anxiously hoping the superstar No.10 gets through the lead-up to the series unscathed so he can pull the strings against the Lions.

Elton Jantjies (Lions)

Jantjies’ loan spell at French club Pau, which ends this weekend, has helped keep his motor running while offering the veteran playmaker a change of pace and new insight into Northern Hemisphere rugby. As experienced a pivot as they come, he’s been a staple in the Springboks squad for years. With a proven track record and creative playmaking abilities, he’s a decorated and dangerous deputy as well as an ultra-capable stand-in should Pollard run into problems.

Morné Steyn (Bulls)

This time a year ago, most would’ve scoffed at the prospect of Steyn donning the Green and Gold again, with the veteran having been out of the Springboks picture since 2016. However, he’s been pure class since returning to the Bulls and has expertly steered the Pretoria side back to the pinnacle of South African rugby through consistently commanding generalship. Given the 36-year-old’s age-defying form and history as one of the heroes of the 2009 Lion-taming squad, Steyn has gone from bolter to shoo-in.

Curwin Bosch (Sharks)

After years of forcibly flip-flopping between fullback and flyhalf, Bosch was entrusted with the Sharks No.10 jersey last season and has made it his own ever since. He took the team to the summit of the doomed Super Rugby season and was their best player in Super Rugby Unlocked and the Currie Cup. Still in good nick, his siege-gun boot that enables him to slot 62m penalties and dominate territory sets him apart.

The Rest:

Like Bosch, multi-talented Damian Willemse can play flyhalf and fullback but the extended run he had at No.10 for the Stormers during the same period didn’t pan out as hoped and he’s now back at 15. Frans Steyn (Cheetahs) and Johan Goosen (Montpellier) are two other top utility backs who could cover flyhalf if disaster struck.

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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