JOHANNESBURG – Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’ ongoing search for a world class back-up No 9 will continue in earnest in Europe from this week, with regular and first-choice scrumhalf Faf de Klerk initially ruled out of the team’s four-match tour.
While De Klerk, who plays for England-based Sale, doesn’t feature in the 36-man Bok squad named by Erasmus on Saturday evening – for Tests against England, France, Scotland and Wales – he may still come into the selection mix later on.
There was no mention of the scrumhalf’s availability – or not – when the Bok boss announced his squad on Saturday night.
In De Klerk’s absence, Erasmus will look to recent regular bench-sitters Embrose Papier and Ivan van Zyl to don the No 9 jersey, but now also Sharks captain and stalwart Louis Schreuder, the 28-year-old who earned one Test cap in 2017 and led his team to Currie Cup glory on Saturday.
Erasmus has admitted that finding the right man, with enough game-time and experience behind him, as back-up to De Klerk, ahead of next year’s World Cup in Japan is a key mission next month and in the first half of next year.
Besides the recall of Schreuder, Erasmus also brought back fullback-cum-wing Gio Aplon for the tour.
The 36-year-old, with 17 Test caps, is joined in the tour squad by fellow former France-based loose forward Duane Vermeulen (Toulon), who now plays for Kubota Spears in Japan ahead of joining the Bulls next year.
Aplon currently turns out for Toyota Verblitz in Japan after previously representing Grenoble in France, while lock RG Snyman (Honda Heat) is also coming in for afar.
Four players who’re currently based in Europe have also made the side, namely prop Vincent Koch (Saracens), flank Francois Louw (Bath), fullback-cum-wing Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse) and fullback Willie le Roux (Wasps).
Former Saracens hooker Schalk Brits, too, at 37 years of age, has made the touring party.
Erasmus has also handed exciting young Currie Cup stars, centre Ruhan Nel, wing Sergeal Petersen and lock JD Schickerling, places in the tour party as he seeks to have one last look at players who could potentially add value to the Boks going into World Cup year.
Formerly injured players Trevor Nyakane and Lood de Jager are also back and will boost Erasmus’ options over the four weeks.
“It is always good to welcome new players to the Springbok environment, and I’m excited to work with Sergeal and JD,” said Erasmus, “and I am sure they will bring a lot of energy into the group.
“And Gio has a lot of experience of playing in the challenging European conditions from his club stint in France, while Louis has been impressive in the Currie Cup and bring a lot of experience to the team.”
Players who didn’t make the squad because of injury include Lionel Mapoe, Ross Cronjé, Tendai Mtawarira, Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi.
A first group of Bok players – those men who participated in the Stellenbosch training camp last week – jetted to the UK on Saturday afternoon.
The rest of the group, made up of the men who featured in the Currie Cup final, flew out of South Africa directly after the Cape Town match.
Backs: Willie le Roux, Gio Aplon, Damian Willemse, Sergeal Petersen, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Sbu Nkosi, Cheslin Kolbe, Jesse Kriel, Ruhan Nel, Damian de Allende, Andre Esterhuizen, Handré Pollard, Elton Jantjies, Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl, Louis Schreuder.
Forwards: Warren Whiteley, Duane Vermeulen, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Francois Louw, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), Franco Mostert, Lood de Jager, RG Snyman, JD Schickerling, Eben Etzebeth, Thomas du Toit, Vincent Koch, Wilco Louw, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Trevor Nyakane, Schalk Brits, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi.@jacq_west