Johannesburg - At next year’s World Cup in France, the Springbok squad that was first put together by Rassie Erasmus in 2018 will have fully matured.
They were a relatively young bunch in Japan three years ago but when they get to Paris in 2023 the majority of the squad will be a shade under or over 30, and a few older still.
While most of them will be able to continue at the highest level for a year or two longer, this next World Cup will be the end of the road for some.
Mike Greenaway looks at five senior citizens who are nearing the rocking chair and who should replace them.
Willie Le Roux: The fullback was beleaguered by the critics last year after some hesitant performances in the Rugby Championship and after the World Cup he will be 34 and surely heading for pastures new. Who should replace him? Warrick Gelant or Aphelele Fassi sound about right to me.
Elton Jantjies: He will be 33 come close of play in Paris next year and while that is hardly ancient, a post-World Cup year is when the next cycle begins for the Boks and with Handre Pollard only 28, the net must be spread for a new back-up flyhalf. Think no further than Johan Goosen, who will be 29, but still has so much brilliant rugby in him. Manie Libbok will also be in the frame.
Frans Steyn: He has been a faithful servant and at 35 is the perfect age for him to reach for the pipe and slips after a job well done. He has been used as a utility back off the bench, covering virtually every backline position bar scrumhalf. Damian Willemse may not want to hear this but he would be literally the best substitute.
Trevor Nyakane: The big fellow turns 34 next year and after this World Cup he will bid a fond farewell. He debuted back in 2013 and would have had more than his 54 caps had injuries been kinder to him. He will play out his career at Racing 92. Jacques Nienaber has no shortage of promising props coming through. Personally, I like the looks of up-and-comers in Neethling Fouche of the Stormers and Carlu Sadie, the erstwhile Lion.
Vincent Koch: He will be 33 next year and has 33 caps, most of them off the bench — he has been a key element of the Bomb Squad since 2019. It is time though for the baton to be passed on and it will be the turn of Thomas du Toit to play a more prominent role for the Boks. Du Toit is maturing nicely now at age 27 and is showing leadership, too, in captaining the Sharks.