Bismarck du Plessis could make a comeback for the Springboks. Photo: EPA

JOHANNESBURG Several South Africans will be involved for Montpellier in Friday night’s Top 14 semi-final against Lyon at the 60 000-seater Groupama Stadium, but the one man who’ll be more closely watched than any other by new Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is veteran hooker Bismarck du Plessis.

Erasmus will name his first squad since becoming Bok boss on Saturday night  for the one-off Test against Wales in Washington next Saturday and for the three-Test series against England that follows that  and it is expected he will pick 40 men in his enlarged group, with 26 going to the USA next Wednesday.

The other 14 men will stay behind in South Africa to prepare for the visit by Eddie Jones’ England.

Frans Steyn is someone that might be named in Rassie Erasmus' Springbok squad. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

One of the major topics of discussion ahead of the announcement revolves around the hooker position because first choice Malcolm Marx is not available for selection until late in June. Last year’s SA Rugby Player of the Year would have been the starter in all three Tests against England.

Erasmus has now got to find a new man to wear the No 2 jersey and the good news for him is Bongi Mbonambi, who was the Bok back-up hooker behind Marx for most of last season, has recovered from a burst appendix in time to be considered for Test duty next month. 

The Stormers man has missed most of this season’s action, but returned to play last week and should be one of the hookers in Erasmus’ squad.

One other will be veteran Sharks man Chiliboy Ralepelle, who brings vast experience to the position, with his provincial mate Akker van der Merwe also in the mix to get a first run at Test level.

Du Plessis though  in the absence of Marx  is also very much an option for Erasmus. At 34 and with 79 Tests behind him, he’s a man who could easily fill one of three regular hooker slots in the Bok squad.

If Du Plessis is to be a Bok squad member again he will have to show Erasmus he is ready, fit, and has the hunger for Test rugby. Tonight’s match could go a long way in swaying the Bok boss’ mind.

If Duane Vermuelen is named in the Bok squad, he might even be captain. Photo: EPA

Either way, if Du Plessis is picked he won’t feature in the USA next weekend  and neither will any overseas-based player  as the match falls outside the international Test window. South Africa-based players only are thus expected to take on Wales next Saturday night.

Besides Du Plessis, centre Frans Steyn, loose-forward Duane Vermeulen, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, outside back Willie le Roux and prop Vincent Koch are Europe-based players who could be called up for Test duty by Erasmus.

In the absence of the injured Warren Whiteley and Eben Etzebeth, Erasmus will also have to name a new team leader next week. Siya Kolisi is the hot favourite for the job, but other contenders would include Handre Pollard and Vermeulen.

The Boks will get together in Johannesburg on Sunday and train there until Wednesday, when the 26 players to travel to the USA will be named.

Possible squad

Backs: Warrick Gelant, Curwin Bosch, Willie le Roux, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Sbu Nkosi, Makazole Mapimpi, Travis Ismaiel, Lukhanyo Am, Jesse Kriel, Andre Esterhuizen, Frans Steyn, Damian de Allende, Handré Pollard, Elton Jantjies, Robert du Preez, Faf de Klerk, Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl.

Forwards: Dan du Preez, Jean-Luc du Preez, Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi, Cyle Brink, Roelof Smit, RG Snyman, Franco Mostert, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jason Jenkins, Oupa Mohoje, Ox Nche, Trevor Nyakane, Wilco Louw, Steven Kitshoff, Tendai Mtawarira, Vincent Koch, Thomas du Toit, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Bismarck du Plessis, Bongi Mbonambi, Akker van der Merwe.


The Star

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