CAPE TOWN – With such an increase in competition in the Springbok squad, there are only a select few players who can truly lay claim to the tag of 'first-choice' certainties ahead of the imminent World Cup in Japan.
On September 21, the Boks will kick off their highly-anticipated World Cup campaign against the All Blacks in Yokohama, Japan. That date is fast approaching.
What the first two rounds of the Rugby Championship have shown us is that the Boks certainly don't have a shortage of options, with two largely different squads doing duty against the Wallabies and All Blacks.
With this in mind, it's probably only Malcolm Marx in the frontrow who is dead certain on holding down a place in the starting lineup.
Among the locks, there is plenty of competition, with Eben Etzebeth sure to wear the No 4 jersey, but then there's very little to choose between the likes of Franco Mostert, RG Snyman and Lood de Jager.
In the loose forward department, the Boks have a surfeit of options, but coach Rassie Erasmus will at least be confident that Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen are his first-choice combination.
In the absence of Kolisi, Francois Louw looks like the next best No 6. Of course, by this time there is a concern that Kolisi will recover in time for the World Cup.
Similarly, the halfback pairing of Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard looks set in stone, although scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies has been spectacular and could cause Erasmus to rethink.
It remains to be seen whether Frans Steyn may make a late play for the No 12 jersey at the expense of Damian de Allende. There is also the matter of Steyn's versatility and his prodigious boot which could be vital.
At outside centre, Lukhanyo Am remains the frontrunner to start at the World Cup, but Jesse Kriel is providing increased competition.
There are also plenty of options in the back three, and on the leftwing, Makazole Mapimpi has started the first two games of the Rugby Championship in the absence of injured Aphiwe Dyantyi. However, his lapses on defence have been a concern.
Cheslin Kolbe, who starred against the All Blacks in Wellington both last year and this past weekend, now may just hold a slight edge over Sharks star S'bu Nkosi. At this time, Kolbe is one of several players who may rightly be regarded as No 1 choices.
Finally, at fullback, Willie le Roux is the man in charge of the No 15 jersey, but it remains unclear whether Steyn, Warrick Gelant and Damian Willemse will provide the primary back up. Willemse is in a race to recover fitness.
All in all, it makes for what is sure to be an extremely interesting World Cup squad selection, with a few players sure to be unlucky to miss out.
African News Agency (ANA)