These are the nine Springboks released for Currie Cup duty to be sharp for Portugal Test

Springboks outside centre Lukhanyo Am hasn’t played any rugby since the later stages of the United Rugby Championship. Picture: Michael Bradley / AFP

Springboks outside centre Lukhanyo Am hasn’t played any rugby since the later stages of the United Rugby Championship. Picture: Michael Bradley / AFP

Published Jul 11, 2024


Star outside centre Lukhanyo Am is one of nine players who have been released from the Springboks’ camp to play in the Currie Cup this weekend as the South Africans look ahead to next weekend’s Test against Portugal in Bloemfontein.

Am suffered an injury towards the end of the SharksUnited Rugby Championship campaign and hasn’t had any proper game time since. He will rejoin the Sharks ahead of Friday afternoon’s match against the Griquas in Kimberley.

Jesse Kriel has occupied the Springboks’ No 13 jersey since the 2023 Rugby World Cup and is playing some great rugby. Kriel will again be in the midfield for the Boks against Ireland at Durban’s Kings Park on Saturday, running out with centre partner Damian de Allende for a record 30th time.

But Am is likely to start next weekend against Portugal at the Free State Stadium, with Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus expected to make wholesale changes after the two Test matches against the Irish.

Six of the nine players released, all of whom will rejoin the Boks on Sunday, have Test caps. Trevor Nyakane (prop), Makazole Mapimpi, Edwill van der Merwe (both wings), Andre Esterhuizen, Am (both centres) and Aphelele Fassi (fullback), with the other three players being Jan-Hendrik Wessels (prop), Phepsi Buthelezi (loose forward), and Morne van den Berg (scrumhalf).

“We have a big squad at the moment, and as valuable as it is to have so many players at training, it’s important that we keep the players match fit,” said Erasmus.

“Playing in the Carling Currie Cup is ideal since we are locally based, and the players are only a flight away. We finished the groundwork for Saturday’s Test on Wednesday with the entire squad, and we only have the captain’s run left on Friday, so it makes sense to send some players to their unions to play some rugby.

“This will not only keep them sharp as individuals, it will also assist our cause if we do well against Ireland this week and decide to mix things up in terms of team selection against Portugal.”

Erasmus praised the players for their hard work and dedication at training since joining the squad, and he was confident that most of them would make their Springbok debuts at some stage this season as the team builds toward to the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia.

“Some of the players played against Wales at Twickenham and I’m sure they are excited to get back onto the field in a proper match before joining us again on Sunday,” said Erasmus, “while the other players haven’t played rugby in a few weeks – although they have trained hard and with intent for us.

“The reality is that there is no substitute for real game time. We know they’ll return even sharper and hopefully we can give many of them a chance against Portugal.”