Bok selections point to more expansive game plan

Rassie Erasmus selected his first Springbok squad of 2024 early yesterday morning, which includes 11 uncapped players. | BackpagPix

Rassie Erasmus selected his first Springbok squad of 2024 early yesterday morning, which includes 11 uncapped players. | BackpagPix

Published Jun 10, 2024


Leighton Koopman

There could be a few more one-Test Springboks added to a long list of players to have jogged out once for the national side, but there’s no doubt head coach Rassie Erasmus cast his net far and wide as the build-up to the 2027 Rugby World Cup starts for the Boks.

As the four-time world champions start the next phase of their journey towards defending their title from today in Pretoria, Erasmus and his assistant coaches added 11 newbies to their first squad preparing for the opening Test against Wales in London on June 22.

Just like in 2018, when the Bok coaching genius took over the reins with a first Test against the Welsh in Washington, this one will likely see a few new caps added to the South African roster with some World Cup winners absent.

It’s good to see the likes of Quan Horn, Jordan Hendrikse, Edwill van der Merwe and Morne van den Berg (all Lions); the Sharks’ Phepsi Buthelezi, Siya Masuku and Ethan Hooker; and Ben-Jason Dixon, Sacha Feinberg-Mgomezulu, Neethling Fouche and Andre-Hugo Venter (all Stormers) among the fresh faces in the squad after excellent performance in the United Rugby Championship.

Erasmus must still add players from the Bulls, who are still in the running to win the URC, and European-based players, so some might miss out on selection for the double Ireland Tests next month. But this provides them a perfect opportunity to keep their names among the Bok discourse looking at the World Cup Down Under.

A few unlucky ones missed out on selection, though, and at the top of the list are Stormers lock Ruben van Heerden, Lions utility back Sanele Nohamba and Stormers utility back Suleiman Hartzenberg.

However you look at it, the picture of a more expansive Bok game plan over the next couple of matches is evident with the players selected. The addition of assistant coach Tony Brown will also help to speed up the Springboks’ plan to evolve their attack.

But supporters of the reigning world champions should be patient with this squad. It’s an exciting one, but also one rebuilding over the next three years to be World Cup-ready by 2027.

The first step starts against Wales at Twickenham, and while it could bring a festival type of rugby as it coincides with a Barbarians clash at England’s home of rugby, the double Tests against the Irish and All Blacks later this year should give Erasmus and his team a good view of exactly where they are and where the rebuilding should start.

Springbok squad

Forwards: Joseph Dweba, Ben-Jason Dixon, Neethling Fouche, Frans Malherbe, Salmaan Moerat, Evan Roos, Andre-Hugo Venter, Phepsi Buthelezi, Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Koch, Bongi Mbonambi, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Ox Nche, Malcolm Marx, Franco Mostert, Kwagga Smith, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jasper Wiese; Backs: Aphelele Fassi, Ethan Hooker, Makazole Mapimpi, Siya Masuku, Grant Williams, Morne van den Berg, Jordan Hendrikse, Quan Horn, Edwill van der Merwe, Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, Manie Libbok, Faf de Klerk, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Andre Esterhuizen, Cheslin Kolbe, Handre Pollard