CAPE TOWN – The Springboks’ starting line-up for their Rugby Championship game against the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth could be quite different to the one that defeated the All Blacks in Wellington last week.
Bok coach Rassie Erasmus yesterday named a 17-man preliminary squad for their final two matches against Australia next Saturday and New Zealand a week later.
The squad will be finalised after this weekend’s round of Currie Cup action after some final injury assessments have been done by the medical team.
The preliminary group will assemble in PE today, where they will kick off their preparations for the final two Championship matches; the last one being against the All Blacks at a sold-out Loftus on 6 October.
The Boks will be without fullback Willie le Roux (Wasps) and flank Francois Louw (Bath), who have both returned to their English clubs.
Centres Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am will also miss the last two games with shoulder injuries sustained in last week’s massive 36-34 victory at the Wellington Regional Stadium, while Makazole Mapimpi is still unavailable due to a knee injury.
De Allende and Am’s absence could open up the midfield door to Andre Esterhuizen and Jesse Kriel, while the combination of Handre Pollard and Kriel in midfield is another option. With those being the only centres in the current squad, another possibility would be to have a look at one of the centres doing Currie Cup duty this weekend, like Lionel Mapoe, which would give Erasmus the chance to play Kriel on the wing. Sharks wing Sbu Nkosi’s inclusion in the Sharks’ line-up this weekend will also give him an opportunity to prove his fitness.
Erasmus has hinted a number of times that he’d like to blood the exciting Damian Willemse at No 15, and the vacancy at fullback would be this chance to have a proper look at him, or the equally electric Cheslin Kolbe, who played off the bench in Australasia.
The preliminary Springboks squad is:
Forwards: Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff, Siya Kolisi (c), Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Franco Mostert, Tendai Mtawarira, RG Snyman, Warren Whiteley.
Backs: Faf de Klerk, Aphiwe Dyantyi, André Esterhuizen, Elton Jantjies, Cheslin Kolbe, Jesse Kriel, Handré Pollard.