With England set to run out of the tunnel at Ellis Park in a little over three weeks, the AOR team compares notes on a potential Springbok squad, beginning with the forwards.
Tank Lanning: Steven Kitshoff, Bismarck du Plessis, Wilco Louw
Given the various pressures on new coach Rassie Erasmus, the Bok side will suffer some sort of compromise, but that cannot happen in the front row. Sans Marx and Etzebeth, and an out-and-out fetcher, the Boks will need Bismarck’s muscle and stealing ability. Alongside him are the strongest scrummagers available.
Zelím Nel: Beast Mtawarira, Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane
Os du Randt retired when he was 35. During his final three seasons, he won a Tri-Nations title and a World Cup. Mtawarira, SA’s most-capped prop, is 32 and he’s finding form.
Nyakane is also pulling out of a lull and it’s time to get a final answer on whether the 37-capper is capable of anchoring the scrum in a starting role. Here’s why I’d pick Strauss.
Tank: Pieter-Steph du Toit, Ruan Botha
Du Toit is a dead cert, Botha is the bolter. The safe option is Mostert, the rangy option is Snyman, both of whom would do the Boks proud. But the edgy option is Botha, as long as he can stay on the park!
Zels: RG Snyman, Pieter-Steph du Toit
In the absence of Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager, Snyman partners Du Toit in what may be his only shot to climb into the top three on this list of world-class locks.
Tank: Siya Kolisi, Jean-Luc du Preez, Duane Vermeulen
I would play an out-and-out fetcher like Louw, Roelof Smit or Marco van Staden, all of whom would balance out a trio with Du Preez and Vermeulen perfectly, but the 2018 Boks simply cannot put out an all-white pack. Given Du Plessis’ skill at the breakdown, Kolisi adds an athletic, ball-carrying balance. The other option is to play Kolisi at 8, and a fetcher at 6.
Zels: Roelof Smit, Jean-Luc du Preez, Duane Vermeulen (c)
Only Malcolm Marx has won more turnovers than Smit during Super Rugby this season. Smit completes a back row of thumpers assembled to own the collisions on both sides of the ball. Vermeulen captains the team, points to the poles when the Boks win a kickable penalty and demands elite levels of efficiency on defence.
Tank: Akker van der Merwe, Beast Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Jason Jenkins, Roelof Smit
Nyakane is a real risk come scrum time, but he adds value as a ball carrying impact player. Akker is impact personified, and really deserves a look in. Smit gives Rassie the option of bringing on a fetcher if needed, while Jenkins – a real stand out in Super Rugby this year – covers both lock and loose forward.
Zels: Ashley Johnson, Steven Kitshoff, Wilco Louw, Jacques du Plessis, Dan du Preez
Wasps won six of seven successive matches with Johnson at hooker this season. If he’s cleared to play, Johnson has potential value as the third-choice rake in 2019.
Kitshoff is the future, but the Boks get more out of him coming off the bench for Beast than the other way round. Louw is where Nyakane was in 2014 – a shiny new toy with lots of potential, but only five Test caps to his name.
Du Plessis is a versatile, athletic option that doesn’t come with a size compromise (2.01m, 120kgs). With Vermeulen covering No 6, Du Preez wins a tight race to reinforce 7 or 8.
Close but no cigar
Tank: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Scarra Ntubeni, Ox Nche, JC Janse van Rensburg, Vincent Koch, Frans Malherbe, Franco Mostert, RG Snyman, Marco van Staden, Francois Louw, Dan du Preez.
The backs will be unveiled next week – what are the biggest changes you would make to the two packs chosen?