Springbok depth healthy before Ireland Tests, says Rassie Erasmus

Evan Roos seems to have the inside lane to start at No 8 for the Springboks against Ireland after a strong display against Wales. Picture: BackpagePix

Evan Roos seems to have the inside lane to start at No 8 for the Springboks against Ireland after a strong display against Wales. Picture: BackpagePix

Published Jun 28, 2024


When a 39-player Springbok squad has been selected and there are still grumblings about those who missed out, then you know that the depth in South African rugby is something to behold.

That is certainly the case among the loose forwards ahead of the two-Test series against Ireland, where regulars such as captain Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Kwagga Smith have been joined by youngsters such as Evan Roos – who produced a strong display in the win over Wales last weekend – Phepsi Buthelezi and Ben-Jason Dixon.

Marco van Staden was part of the World Cup squad last year too, while Jasper Wiese is training with the squad, despite being suspended until the second Rugby Championship clash against Australia.

Bulls No 8 Cameron Hanekom would have made it for next Saturday’s first Test against the Irish at Loftus Versfeld had he not been injured as well.

But the most talked-about omission was Bulls flank Elrigh Louw, who has been a powerful presence in his team’s charge to the United Rugby Championship final against Glasgow, which they lost 21-16 last weekend.

In addition, many feel that Jean-Luc du Preez and Mpilo Gumede were also a bit unfortunate to be left out, although they are all part of the 14-man standby group that includes another top performer this season, Bulls tighthead prop Wilco Louw.

You could look even further than that, as England-based loose forward Juarno Augustus put his hand up with a number of strong displays for the Northampton Saints.

Closer to home, others such as Lions duo Francke Horn and JC Pretorius, as well as Tshituka brothers Vincent and Emmanuel, may have been worth a shout – not to mention departing Stormers star Hacjivah Dayimani.

Among the backs, Bulls scrumhalf Embrose Papier can consider himself really unlucky, as he has been the best South African scrumhalf in the URC this season – with the Lions’ Morné van den Berg included alongside Faf de Klerk, Cobus Reinach and Grant Williams.

“We have 98 players on the roadmaps. Augustus was measured, but he is competing with Evan Roos, Kwagga Smith, Jasper Wiese... And then you can still move Jean-Luc du Preez there (to No 8), and there were some games in the latter stages which he didn’t even start,” Bok coach Rassie Erasmus said this week.

“It’s difficult. The Japanese-based players play a fast, running game, and their numbers are high on the GPS stats and so on.

“It’s difficult to track, but once we are here now and have all the players with us here, it starts calming down. Handré has been with us, but couldn’t play. Jasper is with us and still can’t play.

“The Bulls players weren’t available, but now are with us and must learn a few things very quickly as they missed two weeks of training.

“Before that, the Stormers missed a week of training before they fell out. But now it’s all settled, and a guy like Canan Moodie will be ready for the second Ireland Test.

“The 23 has not been picked yet, so we can always swap somebody if somebody has a niggle, or doesn’t really do well.

“That’s why I do think our depth is healthy. Last year, we had one flyhalf at the World Cup final. Now we have five guys that we can probably put there.

“So, sometimes I can understand that people are upset about Elrigh, Jean-Luc, Siya Masuku, Ruben, Wilco... But hopefully, things go well against Ireland, and they can maybe play against Portugal.”

Springbok Squad

Forwards: Phepsi Buthelezi, Ben-Jason Dixon, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Thomas du Toit, Eben Etzebeth. Johan Grobbelaar, Vincent Koch, Siya Kolisi, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Salmaan Moerat, Franco Mostert, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Evan Roos, Kwagga Smith, RG Snyman, Gerhard Steenekamp, Marco van Staden, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Jasper Wiese.

Backs: Lukhanyo Am, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Damian de Allende, Faf de Klerk, André Esterhuizen, Aphelele Fassi, Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, Cheslin Kolbe, Jesse Kriel, Willie le Roux, Manie Libbok, Makazole Mapimpi, Handré Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Morné van den Berg, Edwill van der Merwe, Grant Williams.

Players on standby – Forwards: Jean-Luc du Preez, Joseph Dweba, Neethling Fouché, Mpilo Gumede, Elrigh Louw, Wilco Louw, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Ruben van Heerden, André-Hugo Venter.

Backs: Suleiman Hartzenberg, Jordan Hendrikse, Ethan Hooker, Quan Horn, Siya Masuku.

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