There were some surprise calls by Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus in his first Rugby Championship squad, and it was largely refreshing to see some of those names.
Marco van Staden and Cyle Brink are two underrated loose forwards who will bring some ruggedness at the rucks and bulk in the ball-carrying, although the recall of Francois Louw is a bit questionable.
If Erasmus views Van Staden as the best fetcher in the country – with Siya Kolisi set to move to blindside flank – what’s the need for Louw?
Don’t get me wrong, the former Stormers stalwart was a rock in his prime, but Erasmus spoke on Monday about Louw playing at No 8 again, like he did against the All Blacks last year at Newlands.
That should’ve been viewed as a one-off, as there are plenty of top No 8s around – Warren Whiteley is back, Duane Vermeulen will be back in November, Sikhumbuzo Notshe is in the squad and Nizaam Carr is another quality operator at the back of the scrum.
Brink has also played there before, and so can Van Staden and even Kolisi…
But my greatest concern is Eben Etzebeth. He last played any form of rugby in December last year, when he hurt his shoulder against Wales in Cardiff.
It’s now August and Etzebeth hasn’t hit a ruck in anger yet in 2018. But Erasmus said on Monday that the “lack of game time doesn’t bother me”.
Is that fair to the player and the team? Not at all.
I learned a while back that Etzebeth was close to getting on to the field for Western Province in a few Rugby Challenge games in late May and early June, in order to possibly turn out for the Boks in the second and third Tests against England.
But Etzebeth never made it, ostensibly in part due to hurting his back.
He has been training with the Stormers and now the Boks over the last few weeks, but surely playing a few Currie Cup games for Western Province would serve him well?
WP face the Cheetahs on August 25 and the Pumas on September 1, while the Boks take on Argentina on August 18 and 25 in Durban and Mendoza respectively.
By running out for WP, Etzebeth would be primed for the Rugby Championship Tests against the Wallabies in Brisbane on September 8 and All Blacks in Wellington a week later.
For the rest, it was good to see Lionel Mapoe and Damian Willemse make the squad, and that the likes of Marvin Orie and Makazole Mapimpi were retained.
But with Sbu Nkosi and Warrick Gelant injured, why were Dillyn Leyds and Curwin Bosch left out?
Forwards: Cyle Brink, Jean-Luc du Preez, Thomas du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi (captain), Francois Louw, Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Franco Mostert, Tendai Mtawarira, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Marvin Orie, RG Snyman, Akker van der Merwe, Marco van Staden, Warren Whiteley.
Backs: Lukhanyo Am, Ross Cronjé, Faf de Klerk, Aphiwe Dyantyi, André Esterhuizen, Elton Jantjies, Jesse Kriel, Willie le Roux, Makazole Mapimpi, Lionel Mapoe, Lwazi Mvovo, Embrose Papier, Handré Pollard, Ivan van Zyl, Damian Willemse.