Gio Aplon says the Springboks must not waste an ideal opportunity to select untested and in-form players against a struggling Wales in the July series.
Evan Roos and Deon Fourie, who both starred in the Stormers’ Vodacom United Rugby Championship-winning campaign, are two of eight uncapped players selected in a 43-man squad by the Boks for three home Tests against the Welsh, the Rugby Championship, and end-of-year tour.
Roos (22) completed a quadruple of URC awards before the tournament showpiece on Saturday, and the rampaging Stormers No 8 is widely tipped to make his Test debut against Wales.
Should he win his first cap this year, the 35-year-old Fourie will become the oldest player to make his Bok debut. His experience shone through in a relatively young Stormers side, and his ability to play hooker and loose forward contributed to his national call-up.
Influential fullback Warrick Gelant, who scored the decisive try against Ulster to help book the Stormers a spot in the URC final, also received a recall to the Boks, having earned the last of his nine Test caps at the 2019 World Cup against Canada.
A host of URC losing finalists from the Vodacom Bulls, including in-form rookies Elrigh Louw and Ruan Nortje, are also in line to don the green and gold for the first time in 2022.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) June 21, 2022
Aplon, who earned 17 Test caps for South Africa but arguably deserved to have chalked up more, insists the timing couldn’t be better for Jacques Nienaber and the selectors to tweak the Bok lineup by exposing some new faces to international rugby.
“The Springboks have chosen a well-balanced group with regard to the young guys who also get a chance. I think it’s important to show that you also reward the players who play in your own country for good play,” he said.
“The previous two Springbok groups consisted largely of guys based overseas and that would have been a damper on the enthusiasm of the men who play locally.
“What more did the guys have to do to be noticed? Just look at Evan Roos, Elrigh Louw, Ruan Nortje or Warrick Gelant, who all played well throughout. It’s very good to see that they are included. The next step will be to see that they get a chance to play.
“We are no longer far from the next World Cup. Hopefully we get no injuries, but if someone like Willie le Roux or Duane Vermeulen is on the sidelines, who’s next in line?”
Aplon added: “I think we have to use the three Tests against Wales to see which guys can come in and play well at that level.
“Australia is getting up again and New Zealand will also want to make its mark in the Rugby Championship, so it’s difficult Tests that await. Throwing new guys in at the deep end first is going to be a bit unfair to them.
“It could be as a substitute or as part of the starting lineup, just to see how they fare and to give confidence against a Welsh team that last struggled against Italy. We have the time and have nothing to lose in the run-up to the World Cup.”