Durban - The composition of the Springbok squad to play three matches next month in the UK suggests that coach Jacques Nienaber wants to consolidate and see the year out, but many will wonder if he has missed a trick by not integrating some new and in-form players.
The Boks play Wales, Scotland and England to complete one of the most dramatic years in Springbok history, and perhaps a nice finishing touch to the year would have been introducing the likes of Evan Roos and Warwick Gelant to the national set-up under Nienaber.
Gelant is a nine-cap Bok, but serious injury has kept him out of the green and gold for over two years, and now that he is rediscovering his old form for the Stormers he could put some heat on struggling Willie le Roux.
Gelant at this point is a more complete package than Aphelele Fassi, because he is the better kicker and tackler. Roos is arguably the most in-form South African rugby player anywhere on the planet, and needs to be groomed to succeed Duane Vermeulen sooner rather than later. He unquestionably offers more than Jasper Wiese …
Other players perhaps unlucky to not get call-ups include Bulls forwards Elrigh Louw and Ruan Nortjé.
An uncapped player who did get the happy phone call is former SA Schools and Junior Springbok captain Salmaan Moerat, and he will fill the void created by the injury to RG Snyman.
The other notable injury-enforced omissions are Faf de Klerk (hip flexor), Cheslin Kolbe (knee) and Frans Malherbe (neck), while on the long-term injury list are Pieter-Steph du Toit and Rynhardt Elstadt, who are recovering from shoulder and ankle injuries respectively. In explaining his selection policy, Nienaber said: “The core group of players who played a key role against the British & Irish Lions, as well as the Rugby Championship, will remain together as we build consistency and continuity in our squad with an eye on the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
“We had to travel to Australia with an expanded squad due the strict Covid-19 protocols in the country, but with the easing of travel restrictions to Europe and the UK we are able to revert to a more manageable touring squad.
“We are two years out from the Rugby World Cup in France, and we have close to 20 Test matches before we start our defence of the title, so every match will count in terms of building confidence and consistency as a group.
“A number of players have put up their hands in the Currie Cup and the first four rounds of the United Rugby Championship, which is great for our local game.”
* Meanwhile, Nienaber confirmed that Morné Steyn has decided to retire from Test rugby, as announced yesterday, in order to spend more time with his family after a difficult 2020 due to Covid-19 restrictions, and the bio-bubble forced on the Springboks this year for the Lions tour and the Rugby Championship.
Forwards: Thomas du Toit, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Ox Nché, Trevor Nyakane, Joseph Dweba, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Salmaan Moerat, Marvin Orie, Siya Kolisi (captain), Kwagga Smith, Marco van Staden, Duane Vermeulen, Jasper Wiese, Franco Mostert.
Backs: Herschel Jantjies, Cobus Reinach, Grant Williams, Elton Jantjies, Handré Pollard, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Aphelele Fassi, Willie le Roux, Makazole Mapimpi, Sbu Nkosi, Damian Willemse, Frans Steyn.
Tour fixtures (SA times)
November 6: Wales, Cardiff, 7.30pm November 13: Scotland, Edinburgh, 2pm November 20: England, Twickenham, 5.15pm