SA Rugby magazine picks five players who could be wildcard selections over the course of the coming British & Irish Lions series.
The Harlequins flyhalf is simply rugby quicksilver – beautiful but lethal. He stole the show in the knockout rounds of the Gallagher Premiership with a series of performances that were electrifying but composed enough to show he has a cool head on his shoulders. His Lions call-up ahead of Johnny Sexton shows how highly Gatland and co rate him.
Smith had an excellent match against the Stormers and brings that extra bit of creativity the Lions may need to break down the Bok defence. With mercurial Scotsman Finn Russell currently sidelined, Smith could yet be a trump card for Gatland.
Fassi’s prodigious talent is at this stage undisputed. He has shown his calibre over a number of seasons at the Sharks but what will be most encouraging to the Springbok selectors is that he looked completely comfortable taking the step up to Test-match level against Georgia.
His try in that game, along with some tidy handling and kicking skills, suggest that Fassi is made for international rugby. Facing the Lions would be another huge step up for the young man, but as an out-and- out gamebreaker he could yet force his way into the Springbok selection mix.
Dan du Preez
The Springboks are facing a crisis at eighthman in the absence of Duane Vermeulen. Kwagga Smith and Jasper Wiese have both been given a hit-out in his absence, but neither have delivered a fully convincing performance. Smith is talented but lacks the ballast required of a Test-match eighthman and appears more at home on the side of the scrum. Meanwhile, Wiese has been busy if not wholly dominant.
Du Preez has been sidelined with Covid-19 and is yet to feature for the Boks this series; he was, however, a revelation for Sale across the Premiership season. He brings the requisite physicality that the Springboks have been missing and complements it with some silky handling and an engine that won’t stop.
Called into the Springbok squad as cover after the coronavirus outbreak, few were left scratching their heads as to why Louw was not in the original squad. He has been the most dominant tighthead in the Premiership and showed in the final that not only is he a powerful scrummager, but a workhorse on defence and has a traction engine which allows him to power through contact.
The Springboks may feel slightly nervy about their depth at tighthead. Erasmus took a gamble by relying on the experience of the out-of-form Nyakane and Koch, but neither have shown any scrum dominance so far. Louw would be a surefire solution to any set-piece concerns.
Sam Simmonds has shown flashes of brilliance on the tour so far and has already fully justified his selection in the touring party. When given space, there are few more destructive back-row players in rugby.
Although space is a rare commodity at international level, particularly against South Africa, as the game draws to its final quarter Simmonds could be the ideal impact player off the bench to exploit gaps left by tiring defenders.