DURBAN – When coach Rassie Erasmus announced that his squad would have one recognised No 12, in the form of Sharks bruiser Andre Esterhuizen, a few questions resounded. Damian de Allende, a standout for the Stormers, and the incumbent over the June Tests missed out on selection due to injury.
Now, there are suggestions that Handre Pollard could well occupy that vacant No 12 jersey ahead of the newbie Esterhuizen when the Boks open their Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina in Durban on Saturday.
Pollard was no doubt Erasmus’ preferred option at flyhalf in June, but the powerfully built playmaker is no greenhorn in the centres and could well offer the Boks an additionally playmaking edge that has not been seen for many a year.
With the squad lacking recognised inside centres, there is indeed room for a versatile player like Pollard to move a spot out, but it then leaves a gap at pivot.
However, Erasmus does have in his stable a flyhalf that took the Lions to the Super Rugby final three years on the trot.
Elton Jantjies has, on occasion, been criticised for his inability to step up to the bigger games, especially in the green and gold.
However, his pure talent cannot be questioned. Jantjies is one of the most skilful flyhalves plying his trade in the country at the moment and is more than capable of running the show - especially against Argentina.
It would also be interesting to see how the mercurial Lions man operates with another playmaker outside him, something that the Australians, and English, have done with decent success over the years.
Pollard is big and strong enough to breach the gainline as a 12 as much as he does at 10, which allows Jantjies the option to relieve pressure to his outside man, but he can also rely on Pollard to make sure the ball moves through the backline.
Moving a little away from the starting 15, it brings into question whether Erasmus will be willing to bring a total rookie in Damian Willemse onto the bench to cover the flyhalf berth, especially seeing as there are very few No 12 options.
Willemse may well be a perfect bench option however, especially against statistically the weakest Rugby Championship opposition. With his versatility, Willemse can cover a number of roles in the backline, and his ability to hunt a gap, against a tired opposition, has not been seen on the world stage for some time.
Outside of the 10-12 axis, there are a few other positions that the coach needs to consider before naming his team on Thursday.
In the locks, there is an embarrassment of riches with the return of Eben Etzebeth.
Franco Mostert, Pieter-Steph du Toit, RG Snyman, Etzebeth, and not to mention Marvin Orie can all do their nation proud, but it is up to the coach to not only get the balance right, but to also make sure everyone is ready to play - especially the recently returned-from-injury Etzebeth.
There is also a gap at wing that needs to be considered with the absence of Sbu Nkosi to injury.
Aphiwe Dyantyi will no doubt don the No 11 jersey, but at 14 Erasmus has a choice to play veteran Lwazi Mvovo, or rookie try-merchant Makazole Mapimpi - both from the Sharks.
The loose forward position is also one which has a number of questions above it. Duane Vermeulen is out, but there is a former Springbok captain, in the form of Warren Whiteley, chomping at the bit for that spot.
Then, there is the openside, where captain Siya Kolisi is currently positioned, but in the squad there is a fetcher who has been likened to the great jackal that is Heinrich Brussow - namely Bulls man Marco van Staden.
This leaves the blindside option open for Jean-Luc du Preez and Cyle Brink to fight over but the Boks are still left with the overall skill of Sikhumbuzo Notshe - as well as lock/flanks in Mostert and Du Toit.