Mix of Sharks, Bulls to front Wales

Daryn Katz

By now, Rassie Erasmus knows the make-up of his preferred 23 to face England. But before he names that squad, he must first select a side to take on Wales in the USA, and deal with some arduous travel just one week before battling Eddie Jones’ warriors.

These complicated logistics dictate that Erasmus boxes clever. He’s spoken of leaving a squad in South Africa, consisting of mostly first-choice players, to gear up for the June 9 Test against England in Johannesburg before he flies to the States.

European regional competitions are in play-off mode which means most of the earmarked overseas-based Springboks are unlikely to be available to front Wales on June 2.

So who will Erasmus call up for the USA Test? Picking a team that has continuity will be both crucial and tricky, and that’s why I think he’ll go for a Bulls pack and a Sharks backline.

Erasmus plans on regrouping with an enlarged squad in SA on Sunday May 27, with some players from that group set to play in America the following week.

The Sharks have a Super Rugby match against the Jaguares in Argentina on Friday, May 25. How, when and where players selected from that Sharks group will join the US-bound party are questions Erasmus will have to answer. Will they jet home from Argentina to attend the Sunday workshop, or will they fly directly from Buenos Aires to Washington DC to meet up with their fellow countrymen? The latter option would solve jetlag issues.

The lineup that starts against Wales should looking something like this: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Ox Nche

Lizo Gqoboka misses out through injury, and he’s replaced by Cheetahs loosehead Ox Nche. Strauss assumes the captaincy role again and has a chance to purge some demons while Nyakane gets his first start at tighthead for South Africa.

Jenkins and Snyman must both be champing at the bit to show they have what it takes to step up and be considered for the England series in the wake of Eben Etzebeth, and now Lood de Jager, suffering injuries. De Jager’s recent setback may also mean that Sharks captain Ruan Botha – originally not part of the alignment camps – could join his mates in the US to provide some depth at lock.

Roelof Smit’s been on the fringe of Bok selection for a while, Thembelani Bholi gets his first taste of Test rugby, and Dan Du Preez will be intent on proving he offers as much as his twin brother. The backline would have the continuity of Sharks halfbacks Schreuder and Rob Du Preez, and centres Esterhuizen and Am, while Curwin Bosch can cover fullback and flyhalf from the bench.

Erasmus fields a more seasoned back three of Mvovo, Combrinck and Coetzee for the Welsh Test while boldly including the exciting Aphiwe Dyantyi, Sbu Nkosi and Warrick Gelant in the squad that’s preparing for England.

Is this the line-up Erasmus will pick for his debut Test, and is it a Bok team capable of beating Wales?

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- Daryn Katz

Let's chat

  • Dean

    I disagree with the backline you have chosen. I’d pick the strongest possible. The fact that overseas players cannot be picked for that game, go with the best. 15 Gelant 14 Combrinck 13 Kriel 12 De Allende 11 Nkosi 10 Jantjies 9 Papier. Against England 15 Willie 14 Combrinck / Nkosi 13 Am 12 Steyn 11 Dyantyi 10 Pollard 9 de Klerk. Depending on how some of those guys play in the Wales Test, they may feature in the 23 against England. Jantjies and Papier are probably guarantees anyway.

    • Barry Smith

      De Allende! Has been mentioned this year for the improvement he has made over previous abysmal performance, but not because he is knocking the door down! Andre Esterhuizen by a country mile! He has had an outstanding season and deserves the reward!

    • Dean

      Maybe even 15 Gelant 14 Willie vs England. As long as you have at least one experienced player among the back 3. Combrinck offers the extra kicking option from the back and the tee. He has played fullback before too. I am not sure about which 2 out of those 3 should play in those positions.

  • Mike Stoop

    Seriously??? Mvovo and Combrink don’t make their franchise starting line-ups on a regular basis. Mvovo remains suspect under the high ball and Combrink’s defense has been really poor of late. Coetzee at fullback? Even Lions supporters admit his form is poor. You can’t pick him on class because he never had any. As positive as his progress has been, Esterhuizen still suffers from brain farts far too often. Remember him trying to run over a player with an open goal line just a couple of metres to the right. As for Bosch covering flyhalf. I would know where to run if I wanted to break the line against the Boks.

    Even with a few players not available, Wales will walk this one against your chosen team. Did nobody watch the Cheetahs against the Scarlets? That was a Welsh tighthead prop that pushed Nche backwards you know. After Pieter-Steph du Toit delivered a man of the match performance against your selected locks, he does not make your side? Bholi is no better than any other loose forward playing for the other franchises, or even his teammates. Some of them actually spent some time in the Springbok side as well. Maybe he needs a slightly longer apprenticeship in Super Rugby. We need to move away from slow scrumhalves and start looking for ones with a snappy service and who are always in position, like Ivan van Zyl, or maybe even Papier, although a few matches as a replacement hardly prepares you for international rugby. Du Preez is no worse than any of our other flyhalves, so maybe give him a shot if you are sacrificing the test anyway. Am has not convinced me yet, but neither has any other outside centre. So again, he is as good an experiment as any other. We need to find someone who belongs before the World Cup and maybe he is one of those rare players that can lift their game when they play for their country.

    The Welsh are not taking a second string outfit to Washington. This is their team that will travel on to Argentina after the Washington test. Prepare for heart ache.

    • Dr Hoffman

      What garbage, u lost me in the 1st paragraph when u said combrink doesnt make his starting team? And coetzee does have class thats why he is always up there in attacking SR stats. The rest of your dribble would have been a waste to read.

    • DK

      Not the team I would choose if I were selecting but rather speculation regarding who will be chosen based on the alignment camp invites, availability and the need to keep first-choice players fresh for England. You make some fine points.

    • hopeful

      Careful mate you may be accused of patronizing the people commenting….

      If you call a spade a spade and you are honest then there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll agree both Mvovo and Combrink are not selection candidates.

      I would rather give a chance to talented youngsters begging for game time…..or perhaps overseas based veterans who have revived their careers…

      Imagine teams being picked on talent and performance….scary notion but possibly worth looking at….

      • DK

        Reckon Rassie may well be bold enough to give talented youngsters like Dyantyi, Nkosi, Gelant as well as Ismaiel caps against England.

      • Barry Smith

        Both Mike & Hopeful, you have much to say about the proposed selection, but you don’t let us have your thoughts on who should be playing if you disagree with those proposed?

  • hopeful

    15 – Gelant (Willie Le Roux – second half sub)
    14 – Ismail (Second half move Gelant to wing)
    13 – Am (Kriel – second half sub to see his combo with Estherhuizen)
    12 – Esterhuizen
    11 – Dyanti (Nkosi – Second Half sub)
    10 – Du Preez
    9 – De Klerk

    Honestly I would choose the above based on combinations of skill, power and performance….it’s a quick backline with defensive capability at the 10, 12 & 13 channel….

    Gelant for the spark and the talent on both wings to finish it off…

    • DK

      My understanding, based on what Erasmus has said to the media, is that a first-choice squad will be left in SA to prep for England. In my mind, Faf, Le Roux, Gelant, Kriel and possibly Dyantyi will form part of that squad. But quite happy to be surprised when Rassie makes his selections.

      • hopeful

        Would be nice to see some of that young talent given freedom to play….

    • hopeful

      If I’m being honest I would also be curious to see…

      10 – Pollard
      11 – Ismail
      12 – Etserhuizen
      13 – Rohan JVR
      14 – Gelant
      15 – Steyn

      Tell me that isn’t a little intimidating…..

      • Mike Stoop

        Overseas players, especially Aviva Premiership players, are ineligible for Washington. At last someoene noticed Ismaiel. Big, strong and fast. Exactly what you want from an international winger. I would try Ivan van Zyl or Cameron Wright at scrumhalf, with Faf not available. Du Preez and Am are worth a try, but keep Gelant away from wing, until he has played a few full Superrugby matches in that position. He does not know how to defend as a wing.

        Dyanti, Nkosi: much of a muchness. Neither are ready for international duty, but neither is Mapimpi, Tambwe, or anyone else. Maybe look for someone with a longer track record like Combrink and hope he is up to it on the day (willing to actually drop his shoulder in making a tackle). At least you won’t dent a young prospect’s confidence. Unfortunately Mvovo had the opportunity and did not make the step up.

        I really would be reluctant to play these young players so early in their careers. Some of them could actually be great. Are we going to sacrifice them on the alter of political correctness, to get the numbers up?

        In your big man line-up you forgot to include someone outside flyhalf who actually has a record of passing the ball often and holding onto it often. Again Gelant as wing? Remember Wales last November?

        • hopeful

          Yeah some good points and agreed Gelant could do with some time on the wing at the Bulls….although why mess with his talent at Fullback?

          Ismail is a machine…never tackled first time and seldom goes anywhere but forward…I’m lost as to how he has been overlooked, it’s madness!!!

          I think Esterhuizen has shown he can play a linking and kicking role as well as the crash ball option…..but yes as a traditional link and passing centre he isn’t an obvious choice but that’s why I would give him a go in that role!!

          Blooding another youngster on the wing wouldn’t hurt their confidence but agreed Wales have a strong running back line with well coached tactical skills….perhaps not a great suggestion considering how they exposed Mvovo…

  • Herman Schroder

    Daryn, Lol, so much for your Bulls dominated pack in your selections for the Welsh test. They were soundly played off the park by the Jaguares without even a whimper. Strauss for example reverted back to his usual ‘missing in action’ mode when faced with real class.. As for Pollard and the rest of the backs, apart from some flashes from Gelant and Kriel, they spent the afternoon chasing shadows. No gumption shown by the whole sorry lot. Rassie’s got more problems than even he realizes. Granted the Jaguares are basically the Argentinian national team but do you think Wales and England aren’t going to be even tougher ?. Oh boy and I won’t even mention the Stormers with their Bok loaded side against the lowly Sunwolves. Reminds me of Heyneke Meyer’s Japan debacle.

    Problem with our Franchises is that there are so many players who do their jobs and are then considered prime Bok candidates but none stand out as world beaters. Marx is the only player in this country who could be considered world class and that says enough. Even my Lions, obviously in a re-adjustment phase, have not performed to their true potential as yet. Injuries aside and playing below par they still top the Conference which doesn’t say much about the rest. Even though they lost their four NZ games this year, two were by two points, one by six and one by nine points, they have not folded like some of our sides.

    Yet not many Lions are being touted for Bok honours ? They of all our sides have been the only team to match the NZ teams since 2016, playing in fact 14 matches against the kiwi’s, winning 7 and losing 7. In addition in that time they haven’t lost a play off game against the kiwi’s, three in total. Two finals lost yes thanks to a red card in last years ‘Peyper’ balls up.

    The point I’m trying to make is that we have too many pretty average ‘Bok’rugby players who have been hammered in SR by all and sundry these past three years ( Lions excluded ) that they have lost the gees and never say die attitude of winners, hence the inconsistency in performances by most. There is no real solution to this problem for Rassie except to handpick those who ne feels have the right stuff and let them blossom, assuming he plays the right brand of rugby of course. I do know however that ‘dom krag’ is not an option. We’ll soon know of course when he picks his Bok teams. Cheers.

    • DK

      Thanks Herman. Hard to argue with your sound assessments. Marx is a huge blow. And Etzebeth’s and De Jager’s injuries are also significant. Mostert, Whiteley, Faf, Elton and Dyantyi should all be in the first-choice squad to prep for England, I reckon. Out of the players I’m speculating Rassie will pick for Wales, I can only really see Nyakane, Snyman, Am and perhaps Combrinck settling into the Bok camp upon their return from the States. But, yes indeed, we will soon know…

      • Herman Schroder

        Thanks Daryn, it’s great to be on a site where there is some discussion between the writer and the commentor but I do realize it’s not possible for you to debate with everyone. As you may know SS have closed down their comments section and I spent years jousting with the various columnists including my old pal Gavin Rich. AOR needs to put it out there that there is a forum where comments are welcome. Solid debate and lots of humour should be the order of the day.

        As for Rassie well good luck to him. It’s going to be tough to weld these guys into a formidable unit without decent prep time and settled combinations may be the only way at this stage. If Faf is brought in then Jantjies should start in my opinion for example. To me it’s always been about expansive rugby and if only the other Franchises had woken up a few years ago we would have a settled team and game plan by now. Instead we had Meyer and Coetzee who never could come to terms with the ‘modern’ game and poor old Bokkie had to suffer these past four years. Anyway that’s water under the bridge now so it’s time to look forward.

        Looking forward to your next offering, Cheers.

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