Having lined up their preferred Springbok heavies for the series against England, the AOR team gets down to naming the backs.
Tank Lanning: Faf de Klerk, Handre Pollard
I am not entirely sure what De Klerk did so wrong to warrant his sudden banishing from the Bok side, but in his first stint with Sale, he was nominated for the Premiership player of the season. A perfect partner to the obvious choice at flyhalf, Pollard, whose physical presence and ability to manage a game have been key to the Bulls this year.
Zelím Nel: Ruan Pienaar, Handre Pollard
Show me an experienced SA scrumhalf that can kick, tackle, pass and run and I’ll show you a gorgeous Australian.
Pienaar’s recall for an 89th Test is as much about winning in June as it is about mentoring Cameron Wright.
Elton Jantjies patently does not enjoy the physical side of rugby. Pollard arguably enjoys it too much. The point is that everyone is going to have to roll up their sleeves this year and Pollard is far more adept at doing that.
Tank: Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel
Kriel is the no-brainer at 13 given his explosiveness, pace, step and running lines. The De Allende selection will no doubt raise a few eyebrows, but for a player to recover from a dip in form like he has, shows the kind of character needed at national level. His 17 tackle breaks is 5th best in Super Rugby, while his 140 carries is second best. A centre pairing that can break defences!
Zels: Damian de Allende, Lukhanyo Am
Though there’s room for improvement on defence, De Allende is a clear front-runner for the No 12 jersey. Hopefully the Boks make use of his impressive distribution and kicking ability.
Lukhanyo Am offers all the upside of genuine X-factor without any of the associated risks. An excellent decision-maker, Am has a knack for popping up in the right place at the right time, and poses a real threat over the ball.
Tank: Sbu Nkosi, Aphiwe Dyanti, Warrick Gelant
An incredibly exciting trio! All three have lit up Super Rugby this year through their pace, guile and skill. Real finishers with an eye for the tryline.
Zels: Sbu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Curwin Bosch
Kriel and Nkosi offer the backline two physically imposing bookends who don’t need a babysitter when the ball goes wide. SA’s most physically fearsome winger, Nkosi balances grit with burst and agility. Kriel, in the best form of his career, has done time at fullback and adds tactical value.
There are valid concerns about Bosch’s courage in contact, but there’s no doubt he is SA’s most talented kicksmith since Percy Montgomery.
Tank: Cameron Wright, Curwin Bosch, Lukhanyo Am
Wright is perhaps the bolter, but he has really caught the eye for the Sharks, and like his fellow bench warmers, has the ability to make an impact from the bench, rather than just take up space. Bosch edges Jantjies given his ability to cover both flyhalf and fullback, thus creating space for a true gem of a centre, Am.
Zels: Cameron Wright, Rob du Preez, Warrick Gelant
Wright is a bright prospect who has skills (crucial to winning Tests) that don’t make the highlight reels. With Damian Willemse on Junior Boks duty, Du Preez is a backup 10 with traits similar to Pollard.
Gelant is a prodigious talent who will push Bosch by doing real damage off the bench.
Close but no cigar
Tank: Louis Schreuder, Nic Groom, Elton Jantjies, Rob Du Preez, Andre Esterhuizen, Francois Venter, Madosh Tambwe, Ruan Combrinck, Seabelo Senatla, Andries Coetzee
Have the guys nailed it, or do you want to take a hammer to their lineups?