SARugbymag.co.za looks at the Springboks’ midfield options for the upcoming World Cup in Japan.
The 25-year-old is the least experienced centre in the squad and also the only midfielder without World Cup experience, but arguably the most important in terms of the Springboks’ defence. Am has made just eight Test appearances since his debut against Wales in 2017, but has proven himself to be the chief organiser of South Africa’s improved defence under coach Rassie Erasmus. A consistent performer for the Sharks in this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby, Am has translated that form into the Test arena, where he is a dead cert to continue as South Africa’s first-choice No 13.
Damian de Allende
De Allende has been widely criticised and to some extent unfairly so. The 39-time-capped centre has proven himself a key member throughout the Boks’ transition and rebuilding phases between the Allister Coetzee and Rassie Erasmus eras. De Allende has played (and started in) 11 of South Africa’s 18 Tests under Erasmus and all indications are he will continue his partnership with Am as the first-choice midfield combination at the World Cup.
Frans Steyn is the Springboks’ ultimate comeback man. After a five-year Test absence, he resumed his international career when he was recalled by former coach Allister Coetzee for the 2017 mid-year Test series against France before another two-year absence on the international front. But now Steyn is back with the Boks again and set to travel to a third World Cup (he missed the 2015 edition). Steyn has notched 60 caps and covers flyhalf, inside and outside centre and fullback. As the most experienced and versatile back in the squad, he will have a huge role to play over the next nine weeks. With Erasmus confirming he’ll select a makeshift side for the pool game against Namibia on 28 September, the 32-year-old is expected to start that match. Be that as it may, with his big kicking boot likely to come into play, Steyn should make a big impact and add to his 132-point tally while doing so.
The Boks’ improved player depth has moved Jesse Kriel down the pecking order as a centre and wing, but he still has an important role to play as a substitute. Most notably this season, the 24-year-old was relegated to the bench in the Boks’ important clash with the All Blacks in Wellington and Argentina in Salta. Known for his linebreaks and strong leg-drives in the tackle, Kriel is the perfect player to have in reserve late in a game. Like Steyn, his versatility and World Cup exeperience will be invaluable to the Bok cause. And, along with Steyn, they could be the perfect pair of impact players to foil South Africa’s opponents.
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