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Imagine Pollard v Libbok, Wiese v Roos? Overseas against SA-based Springboks trials can solve World Cup headaches

Cheslin Kolbe of South Africa and Damian Willemse of South Africa during the 2022 Castle Lager Incoming Series match between South Africa and Wales held at Cape Town Stadium in Cape Town, South Africa on 16 July

There are just so many options in almost every position. Willie le Roux, Damian Willemse, Cheslin Kolbe or Kurt-Lee Arendse at fullback? Picture: Shaun Roy/BackpagePix

Published May 24, 2023


Cape Town – With just over three months to go to the 2023 Rugby World Cup, time is running out for players to catch the eye of Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber.

The final 33-man group that will go to France will be announced on August 8, and there have already been a few training camps that have taken place.

Springboks boss Nienaber and SA Rugby’s director of rugby Rassie Erasmus will address the media in Cape Town on Thursday to discuss all their plans in the build-up to the defence of the 2023 Rugby World Cup title, but they face a tough task in narrowing down the surfeit of talent to just 33 names.

There are just so many options in almost every position. Willie le Roux, Damian Willemse, Cheslin Kolbe or Kurt-Lee Arendse at fullback? Or who should the starting wings be? Or between Willemse, Damian de Allende and André Esterhuizen at inside centre?

Manie Libbok is pushing Handré Pollard hard for the No 10 jersey, and there is a real logjam at scrumhalf, where there are several choices playing in South Africa and abroad.

Japan-based Faf de Klerk is the incumbent, but Grant Williams has been sensational for the Sharks in the United Rugby Championship, and could bring a new dynamic to the Springboks attack with his electric pace.

Then you have the different attributes that the likes of Cobus Reinach, Sanele Nohamba, Embrose Papier and Herschel Jantjies bring to the party as well.

We all know that South Africa are blessed with outstanding loose forwards, who play across the world, so how do you choose just five or six for the Rugby World Cup?

Apart from the usual candidates who have been a key part of the Springboks set-up over the last few years, there are a number of youngsters who are putting up their hands, such as Evan Roos, Hacjivah Dayimani and Juarno Augustus.

So, we suggest that Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber hold a few trial matches before the start of the Rugby Championship on July 8, which will see the world champions face the Wallabies at Loftus Versfeld.

Imagine seeing Handre Pollard up against Manie Libbok? Or Jasper Wiese against Evan Roos? What about Cheslin Kolbe against Makazole Mapimpi?

The easiest way to pick the respective trial teams would be to have an overseas-based side against locally-based players – and let’s add some spice by having John Dobson and the rest of his Stormers coaching staff take charge of the SA-based side, with the Springboks management handling the overseas players.

Have a look at the sides we’ve picked, and contribute to the debate with your selections on our social media channels…

* Currently injured players such as Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Jaden Hendrikse, Salmaan Moerat and Seabelo Senatla were not considered.

Overseas-Based SA Team

15 Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) 14 Cheslin Kolbe (Toulon) 13 André Esterhuizen (Harlequins) 12 Damian de Allende (Saitama Wild Knights) 11 Dillyn Leyds (La Rochelle) 10 Handré Pollard (Leicester) 9 Faf de Klerk (Yokohama Canon Eagles) 8 Jasper Wiese (Leicester) 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz) 6 Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs) 5 Lood de Jager (Saitama Wild Knights) 4 RG Snyman (Munster) 3 Vincent Koch (Stade Francais) 2 Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) 1 Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92).

Bench: 16 Akker van der Merwe (Sale) 17 Coenie Oosthuizen (Sale) 18 Wilco Louw (Harlequins) 19 Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) 20 Juarno Augustus (Northampton) 21 Cobus Reinach (Montpellier) 22 Robert du Preez (Sale) 23 Warrick Gelant (Racing 92).

Locally-Based SA Team

15 Kurt-Lee Arendse (Bulls) 14 Canan Moodie (Bulls) 13 Lukhanyo Am (Sharks) 12 Damian Willemse (Stormers) 11 Makazole Mapimpi 10 Manie Libbok (Stormers) 9 Grant Williams (Sharks) 8 Evan Roos (Stormers) 7 Hacjivah Dayimani (Stormers) 6 Deon Fourie (Stormers) 5 Marvin Orie (Stormers) 4 Ruben van Heerden (Stormers) 3 Frans Malherbe (Stormers) 2 Bongi Mbonambi (Sharks) 1 Steven Kitshoff (Stormers).

Bench: 16 Joseph Dweba (Stormers) 17 Ox Nche (Sharks) 18 Thomas du Toit (Sharks) 19 Ruben Schoeman (Lions) 20 Sikumbuzo Notshe (Sharks) 21 Sanele Nohamba (Lions) 22 Gianni Lombard (Lions) 23 Dan du Plessis (Stormers).


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