JOHANNESBURG – There is little doubt that Faf de Klerk is the Springboks’ first-choice scrumhalf. However, over the next few weeks rookie Stormers No 9 Herschel Jantjies and Northampton star Cobus Reinach will get an opportunity to show they’re good enough to play Test rugby and push for a place in the 31-man World Cup squad.
Jantjies, who starred for the Stormers in this year’s Super Rugby competition, is the first of the two to be handed a chance to show his credentials as he’ll start on debut against Australia in the opening Rugby Championship Test at Ellis Park on Saturday.
But sitting on the bench waiting his turn will be 10-cap Reinach, who was one of the English Premiership’s best players last season.
Both are in the squad at the expense of Bulls pair Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier, who were full-time members of the squad last season in coach Rassie Erasmus’s first year in charge.
Erasmus explained yesterday, when he named his team for the weekend’s match, that he almost had no choice but to pick Jantjies and Reinach.
“We know what we have in Ivan and Embrose, and even Louis Schreuder... they all had a run last year,” said Erasmus. “But Herschel and Cobus knocked down the door this year, Herschel in Super Rugby and Cobus in Europe.
“Herschel stood up against some of the best scrumhalves in the game in Super Rugby and he was consistently good on attack and defence. He’s slotted in well with us, among his Stormers team-mates, and while he’ll be nervous for his first Test, he’s good to go.”
Other players Erasmus will be keen to see make a good go of it will be Toulouse-based flanker Rynhardt Elstadt, who’ll also be on debut, and veteran centre Frans Steyn of Montpellier, who’ll play off the bench.
Also warming the bench will be Ulsterman Marcell Coetzee and Saracens prop Vincent Koch.
Erasmus said Steyn would primarily cover and be considered at inside centre, even though the now 32-year-old is comfortable at flyhalf and fullback.
“I feel inside centre is Frans’s best position. Of course, he’s versatile and can also play at 10 and fullback, but for now he’ll be considered at 12,” said Erasmus. “He’s an experienced player who’s brought calm and experience to the group, but I want to see him step up from the Top 14 in France. He’s again got to prove to us he can make that step up.”
Erasmus added that Elstadt, who’s somewhat of a surprise call-up from France, would also have to show in the coming weeks that he’s Test quality.
“Rynhardt played at the highest level in the Top 14, he played in finals and won them, but this is Test rugby. He too must make a step up.”
Fit-again lock Eben Etzebeth will captain the side, with Lood de Jager next to him, while the front row of Beast Mtawarira, Bongi Mbonambi and Trevor Nyakane add further experience to the pack. Francois Louw from Bath will again play at No 8, a position he featured in for the Boks last year.
The Springboks team is:
Warrick Gelant, S’bu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Andre Esterhuizen, Makazole Mapimpi, Elton Jantjies, Herschel Jantjies, Francois Louw, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Rynhardt Elstadt, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi, Beast Mtawarira.
Replacements: Schalk Brits, Lizo Gqoboka, Vincent Koch, Marvin Orie, Marcel Coetzee, Cobus Reinach, Frans Steyn, Dillyn Leyds