Connect with us


Back-Up Boks Who Deserve Game Time in Year-End Tests

Quintin van Jaarsveld identifies three Springbok players who saw little to no action in the Rugby Championship who should be given time to shine on the end-of-year tour of Europe.

Quintin van Jaarsveld identifies three Springbok players who saw little to no action in the Rugby Championship who should be given time to shine on the end-of-year tour of Europe.

With Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber having had to select a record 42 players for the away leg of the Southern Hemisphere showpiece because of quarantine and Covid protocols, it was a given that many among the touring party would miss out on game time.

Those part of the Bomb Squad along with wider squad members would’ve known this and for them to dedicate six weeks of their lives to motivate, sharpen and push those ahead of them in the pecking order with positive energy and hard work speak to the passion they have for the jersey and the brotherhood that exists in the world champions’ camp.

The days of Springbok coaches having the luxury of experimenting on end-of-year tours have long passed, with Northern Hemisphere nations having improved immensely since then, and Siya Kolisi and company will be thoroughly tested when they take on Wales, Scotland, and England on successive Saturdays from 6 November.

With that in mind, tweaks rather than mass changes to the first-choice side are in store. It’s in that context that the following trio is at the top of the list of players for whom the European tour is an ideal window of opportunity to shine:

Elton Jantjies

As a playmaker, he is uber-talented and has produced many magical moments over the years. His fundamentals – goal-kicking, kicking out of hand, restarts, distribution, and defence – are world-class and his tactical nous continues to evolve.

A staple in the Springbok set-up for almost a decade, Jantjies has been the ultimate team man for his country, especially in recent years. Sixteen of his 41 Test appearances have come off the bench, including when he made his Springbok debut in the 31-8 win over the Wallabies at Loftus Versfeld in September 2012.

He enjoyed one extended run as the first-choice Springbok flyhalf spanning across 2016 and 2017, a period that saw him start in 17 of South Africa’s 18 Tests. Since then, he’s served as a seasoned insurance policy off the pine, with Handre Pollard having taken ownership of the green and gold No.10 jersey.

Whenever he started in recent years, it was against the likes of Namibia, Canada, Georgia, and most recently, in the 32-12 win over the Pumas in Gqeberha in August. Never one to voice his frustration over a lack of game time, the Lions legend instead strives to make the most of every opportunity he gets.

While Pollard has expertly steered the Springboks back to the summit, he hasn’t been at his best this season, a result of being thrust back into international rugby shortly after returning from a serious knee injury.

Jantjies was one of the heroes of the recent 31-29 victory over the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship finale, having a key hand in Makazole Mapimpi’s try, slotting a drop goal and the match-winning penalty as a super-sub, and with Pollard not at his peak, it’s a perfect time for Jantjies to step back into the starting line-up.

Herschel Jantjies

The Springboks are without a linchpin in first-choice scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, who faces four months on the sidelines after undergoing hip surgery last week. With his trusty left foot and ample experience, the blonde-haired fan favourite has been South Africa’s tactical general from the base since 2016.

Similarly-skilled Cobus Reinach is a like-for-like swop and as such, he started in the three games De Klerk was unavailable for this season – the opening Test against the British & Irish Lions and the back-to-back matches against Argentina. If Nienaber does decide to give Elton Jantjies the No.10 jersey, then he’s likely to be paired with Reinach, who’s more tactically astute than Herschel.

That said, 20-30 minutes off the bench would be a satisfactory reward for the Stormers scrumhalf, who’s bided his time since bursting onto the scene in 2019. A sparkplug of attacking energy, his dream debut against the Wallabies at Ellis Park, where he scored a brace in a Man of the Match performance to propel the Springboks to a 35-17 win, feels like a distant memory. It was also one of just two times that the 18-cap 25-year-old’s started a Test to date. As promising a prospect as he is, uncapped Grant Williams probably won’t make his Springbok debut on tour, unless injuries intervene.

Aphelele Fassi

Willie le Roux has gone from beloved try-assist king to a polarising presence in the Springbok starting XV in recent times. His shocker in South Africa’s last Test against the All Blacks on the Gold Coast, coupled with the key role his replacement Frans Steyn played in the epic comeback win, didn’t do him any favours either.

With his extraordinary versatility, Steyn is the ideal man to have on the bench, which is why the two-time World Cup winner has become a cherished member of the Bomb Squad. The obvious candidate to take over the No.15 jersey is Damian Willemse, but with the multi-skilled Stormers star being groomed to take over the “Mr. Do it All” role from Steyn, the European excursion is a great opportunity to give Fassi a start in his preferred position.

With scintillating speed and sublime skill in equal measure, he’s a lanky lightning rod of excitement, which has earned him the nickname “Weekend Special.” Among the 2021 class of newly-blooded Springboks, the 23-year-old didn’t put a foot wrong in his two Test appearances against Georgia and Argentina, both of which he started and scored tries in on the left-wing, and is champing at the bit to show what he can do in his favoured No.15 role.

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.

More in Rugby