The Springboks will have a solid foundation to select players from for the incoming Tests against Ireland and Portugal in July, and the Rugby Championship later this year, thanks to good performances by the local franchises in Europe.
IOL Sport began a series that looks at the options at the disposal of coach Rassie Erasmus.
We looked at fullback, where Damian Willemse is a certainty and Willie le Roux the cover, and right wing, where Cheslin Kolbe will look to keep hold of the jersey. Today, jersey No 13 is the focus.
The incumbent: Lukhanyo Am
How good will it be to see Am, a star during the 2019 World Cup triumph, back in the Springbok No 13 jersey after he missed the 2023 tournament due to a knee injury picked up in Argentina last year.
Although 30 already, he’s been special since his return for the Sharks in the Challenge Cup and United Rugby Championship – and that is how Bok supporters have come to know the playmaker.
He will be keen to revive his partnership with Damian de Allende, and his striking form, despite the Sharks’ struggles in the United Rugby Championship, shows Am’s calibre.
The contenders: Jesse Kriel, Canan Moodie, Henco van Wyk
Kriel was a revelation at the World Cup in the absence of Am.
His contribution to the Boks’ success was massive. Although he recently underwent an operation on his thumb, he should be ready for action when Ireland and Portugal hit South African shores in July.
It’s not just his recovery process that will be keenly followed, but also the progress of youngsters Moodie at the Bulls and the Lions’ star outside centre Van Wyk.
Moodie, 21, has not set a foot wrong in the 13 jersey for the Boks, and although he’s been winging it for the Bulls in the URC and Champions Cup, it won’t be a surprise if Bok coach Rassie Erasmus continues to give him a go at outside centre.
That game at Twickenham against the All Blacks last year showed how good he can be at No 13.
His attacking plays and defensive reads were brilliant, and gave glimpses of what can be expected from him should he stay in that position.
Van Wyk, 22, has been a consistent feature in the URC and Challenge Cup for the Lions over the past couple of seasons.
He is showing immense potential at a young age. Should one of the outside centres not be available, he won’t be a bad pick for Erasmus and the rest of the Bok coaches.
As a new cycle begins, looking at the 2027 World Cup in Australia, letting the young Van Wyk loose against Portugal might not be a bad idea, especially considering how Erasmus and co approached the one-off Test against Wales in Washington in 2018, where Makazole Mapimpi and Kwagga Smith made their debuts and went on to become influential players in the back-to-back World Cup triumphs.