Five Bok rookies to watch

JON CARDINELLI looks at five uncapped players set to make an impact on the Springboks' four-game tour of Europe this November.

The 21-year-old blindside flank was the standout player for the Sharks in the 2016 Super Rugby and Currie Cup competitions, and was recently voted the SA Rugby Players' Player of the Year. Springbok coach Allister Coetzee named Du Preez in both of his squads ahead of the tour to Europe this November. This suggests that Du Preez is being viewed as a real alternative to Willem Alberts and Oupa Mohoje in the Test team. If one or both of these men go down with injuries later in the tour, Du Preez may have the opportunity to shine.

Coetzee may attempt to build continuity by starting his strongest possible side against the Barbarians on 5 November. This may see Damian de Allende, the only specialist No 12 in the Test squad, getting another run at inside centre. It would be a shame if Janse van Rensburg, who hasn't been selected for the Test squad, doesn't get an extended run against the Barbarians. The powerfully built No 12 dominated at the gainline for the Lions in Super Rugby, and many felt that he should have been called up by Coetzee for the Rugby Championship.

Like Du Preez, Roelof Smit and Francois Venter, Petersen will be available for the Barbarians game as well as the Tests against England, Itay and Wales. Petersen delivered a timely reminder of his attacking ability in the recent Currie Cup final, creating a try and scoring one himself. While he impressed at times during the 2016 Super Rugby tournament, there were some questions around his strength in the tackle and handling of the high ball. Northern hemisphere conditions are usually conducive to a more tactical approach, and so Petersen's aerial and kicking game will need to be on point if he receives an opportunity.

Francois Louw's injury has forced Coetzee to look outside the Rugby Championship squad for specialist openside flankers. While Jaco Kriel is likely to start at No 6 in the coming Tests, an injury to Kriel could see Smit promoted to the match-day squad. Smit showed his value on defence in the recent Currie Cup playoffs, effecting some timely breakdown steals for the Blue Bulls. Test rugby will demand more of the 23-year-old, however, and he will need to adapt to the pace and intensity.

Venter has been part of Bok camps and wider training groups before, but has never won a Test cap. One wonders if the 25-year-old centre will realise that ambition on this tour, given that the Boks have two more experienced No 13 options in Lionel Mapoe and Jesse Kriel. While Coetzee is yet to confirm his plan for Venter, the selections of the Test squad suggest that the Cheetahs man may be considered at No 12 if De Allende breaks down. Venter has played some great rugby this season, but will need to step up on defence if he's backed to start in the Bok midfield later on the tour.

Photo: Anne Laing/HM Images

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Jon Cardinelli