• Bok watch: A closer look at RWC forwards

    In the second article of a three-part series, CRAIG LEWIS looks back at the Springboks’ match-day squad from the World Cup final and provides an update on each member of the forward pack.

    READ PART 1: A look at the backline stars

    Although South Africa’s famous World Cup triumph may still feel fresh in the memory, more 15 months have passed since that day in Yokohama, while the world, and the global game of rugby, has changed forever in that time.

    With all this in mind, and with the Springboks continuing their preparation for the British & Irish Lions series, it’s interesting to unpack how the World Cup-winning players have negotiated an unprecedented period since leaving Japan.

    8 Duane Vermeulen

    Vermeulen has enjoyed a standout season for the Vodacom Bulls, where his value as a leader and world-class player has been clear to see.

    He has banked a meaningful amount of game time, and is one of the first names that would be written down on any Springbok squad list in the lead-up to the Lions series.

    ALSO READ: Vermeulen one of the all-time greats 

    7 Pieter-Steph du Toit

    As positive as Vermeulen’s progression has been over the past few months, the fact that Du Toit has played virtually no rugby since the World Cup will be of real concern.

    His recovery from a career-threatening leg injury is said to be progressing well, but the 2019 World Player of the Year will be in a race against time to rediscover top fitness and form before the Springboks next head into international action.

    6 Siya Kolisi

    The World Cup-winning captain endured a domestic campaign that was disrupted by injury and Covid-19-enforced absences from action.

    When he has been able to take the field, it’s been clear that his form has been negatively impacted, and there remains a real need for him to settle back into his stride in order to earn automatic selection for the Boks.

    5 Lood de Jager

    The towering lock is another top Bok who is still recovering from a serious injury. De Jager underwent his third shoulder reconstruction last year, and is yet to return to action for the Sale Sharks.

    De Jager’s situation is another example of why Rassie Erasmus was adamant the Boks had no option but to withdraw from the 2020 Rugby Championship due to various leading players having been unable to bank enough game time.

    4 Eben Etzebeth

    Etzebeth is another player who has spent some time on the sidelines due to injury, but the silver lining is that he has shown a return to formidable form in recent matches for Toulon.

    As the Boks continue to push ahead with preparations for the Lions series, there will be at least some relief that an integral member of the forward pack is up and running in France.

    COLUMN: Etzebeth’s adaptability a timely reminder

    3 Frans Malherbe

    The big front rower has shrugged off criticism over his perceived drop in conditioning since the World Cup, and has remained a typically influential performer for the Stormers and Western Province.

    He remains one of the most effective scrummagers in the game, and has continued to build up a meaningful amount of game time. There’s little doubt that some time back in the Springbok set-up will quickly aid his return to top shape for international rugby.

    2 Bongi Mbonambi

    It’s of little surprise that Mbonambi continues to be talked of as a sought-after recruit by more than a couple of teams outside Cape Town.

    His passionate and impactful performances for the Stormers and Western Province were one of the few bright lights during a challenging season, and there’s little doubt that he remains the incumbent Springbok starting hooker.

    1 Tendai Mtawarira

    His 117 caps of international experience will never be easy to replace, but after the retirement of the ‘Beast’, Steven Kitshoff has at least shown he is ready to make the Springbok No 1 jersey his own.

    *Part three of this article series will be published on Friday.

    Bok squad for RWC final – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
    Subs: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Franco Mostert, 21 Francois Louw, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn.

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    Craig Lewis