CAPE TOWN - After three rounds of the Rainbow Cup SA, the 15 men below have made the biggest impact in the competition so far – in my opinion – for a form Springbok side.
The biggest surprises, perhaps, are Stormers wing Edwill van der Merwe, Bulls blindside Elrigh Louw, Lions tighthead prop Carlu Sadie and Bulls loosehead Lizo Gqoboka.
For me, Van der Merwe was busy in a losing cause in the Stormers’ opening game against the Sharks, and his finishing was deadly in the win over the Lions at the weekend.
Louw is a dynamic ball-carrier who is strong on defence, and at this stage of the season, has done more than Pieter-Steph du Toit, who is returning after a long injury layoff.
The barrel-chested Sadie has been a monster in the scrums for the Lions, while Gqoboka was immense off the bench for the Bulls against the Stormers and Sharks.
15 Aphelele Fassi 14 Madosh Tambwe 13 Lukhanyo Am 12 Cornal Hendricks 11 Edwill van der Merwe 10 Morné Steyn 9 Jaden Hendrikse 8 Duane Vermeulen 7 Elrigh Louw 6 Marco van Staden 5 Ruan Nortjé 4 Walt Steenkamp 3 Carlu Sadie 2 Bongi Mbonambi 1 Lizo Gqoboka
Stormers scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies may not have dazzled in all three Rainbow Cup matches the Stormers played so far but, the way he won a crucial breakdown in the last few minutes at Ellis Park while the hosts were trying to run the clock down was a crucial moment in an overall superb performance in their last-gasp win. His run, which no doubt helped the Stormers snatch their first win of the competition, was brilliant enough to earn him a spot in this team, I’d say.
On the right wing, Edwill van der Merwe’s solid contributions - which included a try that saw him burn the Lions with that pace and assist Dan du Plessis with his five-pointer - were fine. He also did well against the Sharks later on in Round One to assist Damian Willemse with his top late try.
15 Damian Willemse 14 Edwill van der Merwe 13 Wandisile Simelane 12 Cornal Hendriks 11 Madosh Tambwe 10 Morne Steyn 9 Herschel Jantjies 8 Duane Vermeulen 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit 6 Marco van Staden 5 Ruan Nortje 4 Reniel Hugo 3 Carly Sadie 2 Bongi Mbonambi 1 Ox Nche
My Springbok form team is picked for a fictitious Test on Saturday. Obviously, there will be players I overlook who are still building towards their best form. Maybe I will pick them next week if they continue to get better in the Rainbow Cup? Siya Kolisi is one of them. I think he needs a few more laps around the track before he is ready to lead the Boks once more. Right now he is nowhere.
Some of the players I have chosen are there on their credentials allied to reports on their form — mostly the Boks based in Japan, such as Willie le Roux and Franco Mostert— because there is little coverage of their games. The Europe-based Boks are easier to evaluate, and I have seen some excellent performances from South Africans in action in France, England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
Handre Pollard can’t be picked until he plays more rugby, nor can Pieter-Steph du Toit. On form, Jean-Luc du Preez cannot be ignored given his performances for Sale Sharks.
15 Willie le Roux 14 Cheslin Kolbe 13 Lukhanyo Am (capt) 12 Damian de Allende 11 Makazole Mapimpi 10 Morne Steyn 9 Faf de Klerk 8 Duane Vermeulen 7 Jean-Luc du Preez 6 Marcell Coetzee 5 Franco Mostert 4 Eben Etzebeth 3 Frans Malherbe 2 Bongi Mbonambi 1 Steven Kitshoff.