JOHANNESBURG – Considering his match-day squad from the England series, through the Rugby Championship, to the November tour of Europe hasn’t changed all that much, it would appear Erasmus has a good idea of who’ll make up the final 31.
A core group featured regularly for the Boks during the season and one can quite comfortably tick off 25 players whose names are probably already written down for the trip to Japan.
Here one thinks of Willie le Roux, Sbu Nkosi, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Handre Pollard, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff and some others. When fit and available this year, they were always in the selection mix and won’t now summarily be dropped from the first choice squad next year.
There are others, though, like Curwin Bosch, Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Lionel Mapoe, Ross Cronje, Jean-Luc Du Preez, Marco van Staden, Marvin Orie, Akker van der Merwe and Ox Nche, and a good few others, who only played one or two games because of injuries suffered or simply not being considered and will do well to force their way into the World Cup mix.
Among the outside backs, Le Roux and Damian Willemse cover fullback, Nkosi, Dyantyi and a fit-again Makazole Mapimpi could be the wings, while in the centres Erasmus is not likely to look further than Kriel, De Allende, and a fit Lukhanyo Am, with Handre Pollard providing further cover.
Jantjies will feature as one of two flyhalves, with scrumhalf De Klerk backed up by Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier.
The chances are slim of Jan Serfontein returning to bolster the midfield, and even Cobus Reinach getting a look-in as a scrumhalf simply because Erasmus didn’t back them to be part of the equation this season. The same goes for Frans Steyn.
There are several options available at loose-forward, with the Du Preez twins, Dan and Jean-Luc, and Van Staden set to miss out, while Lood de Jager might be the big casualty at lock, only because he hardly played for the Boks this year due to injury.
Prop is also a well-stocked department and some big name players like Wilco Louw, Vincent Koch, Coenie Oosthuizen and Lizo Gqoboka could miss out when the time comes for Erasmus to pick his squad.
While Erasmus will pray for an uneventful and injury-free 2019 Super Rugby competition, there are almost certainly going to be casualties who will miss out on going to the World Cup, giving hope to others of cracking the final 31.
Erasmus will also have to consider transformation targets next year, with his World Cup squad having to be 50 percent black. In a possible 31-man squad picked here, there are 13 blacks - less than the required target.
The possible Bok squad is:
Willie le Roux, Damian Willemse, Sbu Nkosi, Makazole Mapimpi, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Andre Esterhuizen, Lukhanyo Am, Handre Pollard, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl, Duane Vermeulen, Warren Whiteley, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi, Francois Louw, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, RG Snyman, Frans Malherbe, Trevor Nyakane, Beast Mtawarira, Thomas du Toit, Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Schalk Brits.@jacq_west