A space has opened up in the Springbok back row for the first of three Tests against Wales in Pretoria on Saturday after Pieter-Steph du Toit was ruled out of the match.
Bok assistant coach Deon Davids on Monday confirmed that Du Toit is the only injury concern going into the Test at Loftus Versfeld.
The 29-year-old is still recovering from shoulder surgery, but is expected to be back for the second and third Tests in Bloemfontein and Cape Town.
His absence means that the Springboks have a gap at blindside flank, as Du Toit was expected to take his place in a back row alongside captain Siya Kolisi and No 8 Jasper Wiese on Saturday.
Should the Bok coaches opt to experiment, this could open the door for a potential Test debut for Elrigh Louw. The 22-year-old has been in sensational form for the Vodacom Bulls, helping his provincial team progress to the Vodacom United Rugby Championship final. His work rate on defence and ability as a lineout jumper would make him a natural replacement for Du Toit in the No 7 jersey.
However, it is more likely that the Springboks go for the tried and trusted as they look for a strong start to the series. When Du Toit was injured during the second Test of the Lions Series last year, he was replaced by Kwagga Smith.
Recent talk is that the coaches could deploy both Smith and Deon Fourie off the bench in the final 20 minutes against Wales, in order to give the Springboks a double threat at the breakdown when the game opens up.
If this is the case, then either Franco Mostert or Rynhardt Elstadt could replace Du Toit in the starting lineup. Both players have been listed as ‘utility forwards’ in the Bok squad, as they are capable at both flank and lock. Mostert started the third Test against the British & Irish Lions at blindside flank.
The Springboks will name their starting lineup for the first Test on Tuesday.
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