Overlooked for selection to the Springbok squad, Marcell Coetzee has been picked to lead a hypothetical Best of the Rest XV, as chosen by ZELIM NEL.
Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber named a 46-man squad to battle Georgia and the British & Irish Lions. Marcell Coetzee was a shock omission from the squad, especially in light of what is believed to be a season-ending injury to the rock of the Bok pack, No 8 Duane Vermeulen.
An icon in Belfast, Coetzee was electric on his debut for the Bulls against the Stormers as he ended his first match since returning from Ulster having assumed the captaincy during what coach Jake White labelled a ‘phenomenal’ performance.
Such is the depth of South Africa’s rugby talent that Coetzee could lead a team drawn from the remnant that comprises eight Boks and which would arguably offer the Lions as stern a challenge as what they’ll face from the South Africa A team in July.
The 30-year-old loose forward captains the Best of the Rest XV from the base of a scrum spearheaded by the front row of Lizo Gqoboka, Akker van der Merwe and Neethling Fouche.
Gqoboka (31) is a two-Test Bok loosehead prop who probably missed out on selection due to an injury suffered during the Bulls’ narrow loss against the Lions a few weeks ago. An all-action, five-Test hooker, Van der Merwe has earned rave reviews for Sale Sharks in the English Premiership while Neethling Fouche has emerged as a prodigious talent making tracks for the 2021 SA Rugby Young Player of the Year award.
This unit is supported by the 2016 SA A second row of Sale captain Stephan Lewies and Munster-bound lock Jason Jenkins, while Coetzee is flanked in the back row by two impressive youngsters in Bulls blindsider Elrigh Louw (21) and Lions breakaway MJ Pelser (22).
There’s plenty of experience feeding the scrum as 88-Test halfback Ruan Pienaar shares the steering wheel with Captain Kick, Curwin Bosch, while the midfield boasts a combined 43 Test caps in Andre Esterhuizen (8) and veteran Jan Serfontein (35).
And there’s a La Rochelle connection in the back three where fullback Dillyn Leyds (10 caps) and wing Raymond Rhule (7) are joined by hard-running Harlequins finisher Tyrone Green.
There’s plenty of talent remaining to stock a hypothetical bench with Fez Mbatha, Ali Vermaak, Carlu Sadie, Jacques du Plessis, James Venter, Jaden Hendrickse, Tim Swiel and Edwill van der Merwe.
Best of the Rest XV:
15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Tyrone Green, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Marcell Coetzee (c), 7 Elrigh Louw, 6 MJ Pelser, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Neethling Fouche, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.