Springboks barometer: No 9 Grant Williams can help Boks evolve attack

South Africa's scrumhalf Grant Williams runs with the ball during the Rugby Championship first round match between South Africa and Australia at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria

IOL Sport takes a look at the players who have impressed enough so far to secure a place in the Springbok squad for the international season. Seen here: Grant Williams with the ball. Picture: Phill Magakoe/AFP

Published Feb 7, 2024


With the South African franchises set to return to action in the United Rugby Championship (URC) in just over a week, the next few months will be vital for players looking to impress the Springbok coaches.

Back-to-back Tests against Ireland and New Zealand await, while an experimental side could feature in the one-off Test against Portugal and a possible friendly match against Wales.

Here, IOL Sport takes a look at the players who have impressed enough so far to secure a place in the Bok squad for the international season.

Today we feature the scrumhalves. It is a position the Springboks arguably have the most depth in currently.

The incumbent: Faf de Klerk

Before his injury and surgery, double World Cup winner Faf de Klerk had already gone head-to-head with All Black superstar Aaron Smith and bested him in their Japan League One club clash a month ago.

That can only spell good news for their potential match-up later this year in South Africa.

The knee injury has kept him out of action in the last couple of weeks, but by July he should be ready to take up the No 9 jersey for the Boks when they take on the Irish.

He is turning 33 this year but should have enough rugby in him to keep the starting jersey.

The contenders: Grant Williams, Jaden Hendrikse, Cobus Reinach, Embrose Papier

Any three of the World Cup winners out of the contenders can step in for De Klerk when they have to.

Williams should be the guy in the backup saddle. He just brings a different dynamic to a team’s attacking play, and on form, he is currently the number one scrumhalf playing in South Africa.

It’s time the Springboks start using their potent attack more to their advantage, and Williams at scrumhalf could provide that.

If the Boks are looking to evolve their attacking game plan even more, he is a no-brainer.

Hendrikse and Reinach’s tactical astuteness, should the world champions decide to stick to their dominating game plan, can’t be overlooked, though.

If the Boks go the conservative route against Ireland or New Zealand, who love running the ball, one of them as the backup to De Klerk will also work.

Reinach needs 18 Tests to reach 50 for his country, but at 33, he will most likely only be focused on fighting for a Test cap in every possible game.

The other tough conversation the Bok coaches could have is about the Bulls’ terrier scrumhalf Papier and how he can fit into the Bok fold.

He has been on fire for the Pretoria side as they currently lead the South African charge in the URC.

Papier, 26, is already a Springbok, and is knocking on the door to be included again. With his impressive performances, the Bulls’ halfback is hopefully among the discussions of Bok coach Rassie Erasmus and his assistants.