Mariette Adams and Dylan Jack debate which player will most likely drop out of the Springboks’ current 32-man squad for the World Cup.
Adams says Rynhardt Elstadt
In a toss-up between Rynhardt Elstadt and Kwagga Smith, the Toulouse man might be the unlucky one to be omitted when the final squad is announced at 3pm next Monday.
It has been said that Bok coach Rassie Erasmus has been a huge fan of Elstadt since the player’s early days at Western Province and the Stormers. His excellent form in the French Top 14 and Champions Cup for Toulouse certainly caught Erasmus’ eye and earned him a maiden call-up to the national squad.
By contrast, it’s also been said that Erasmus doesn’t particularly fancy Smith because of his relatively small stature.
And yet, here we are, a month out from the Springboks’ opening World Cup match – against the All Blacks no less – and Smith has more game time under his belt than Elstadt this season. And while the difference in playing time is only about 43 minutes, it’s important to note which games both guys featured in.
Smith started – and starred, mind you – in the title-deciding Rugby Championship game against Argentina as well as against the All Blacks in Wellington. Elstadt was a starter against the Wallabies and in the World Cup warm-up against Argentina at Loftus.
There’s a case to be made for both players’ inclusion, but it would be most bizarre that Erasmus would call on Smith to do a job for him in South Africa’s two biggest and most important matches so far and yet discard him for World Cup in favour of Elstadt.
Within the current Bok set-up, Smith plays a similar role to that of Francois Louw, who is also in the 32-man training squad in Bloemfontein this week. And that could count against Smith, especially since both of them will vie for the spot on the bench.
But Smith covers openside and eighthman, and with Duane Vermeulen as the sole specialist No 8 in the squad, it will be a major plus to have him on hand.
I reckon Erasmus will select five loose forwards with Elstadt, through no fault of his own, unfortunately missing out.
Jack says Warrick Gelant
Rassie Erasmus has the unenviable task of deciding which player to drop to trim his current 32-man squad down to the required 31 for the World Cup. With the depth the Boks have in each and every position, it is an incredibly difficult task to say who exactly will be left out.
Lizo Gqoboka, Thomas du Toit, Andre Esterhuizen, Wilco Louw, Scarra Ntubeni, Dillyn Leyds, Marco van Staden and Marvin Orie have all returned to their respective franchises to play in this weekend’s final round of the Currie Cup. That possibly rules all of them out of being named in the 31-man squad.
However, I feel that Warrick Gelant won’t make the final cut when the squad is announced next Monday.
Gelant started in the Rugby Championship opener against the Wallabies and last weekend’s warm-up match against Argentina in Pretoria. It’s arguable whether he showed enough in those games to be deemed a solid-enough backup should Willie le Roux pick up a knock in Japan.
It should be added that it’s tough to expect the 24-year-old to seamlessly slot in at Test level given his lack of regular game time for the Springboks. He also showed some good touches in both matches he started this year, including a fast pass to put Sbu Nkosi away for his first try against the Pumas. But there is a feeling that Gelant doesn’t exude the same self-assuredness in the green and gold as when wearing the blue of the Bulls.
Given that both Cheslin Kolbe and Jesse Kriel can cover fullback – while if Frans Steyn were to put in the fitness work he could be considered an emergency option – a second specialist fullback may not be needed in the squad.
That doesn’t mean that Gelant would have his World Cup hopes dashed entirely as he would still probably be one of the first names on the shortlist should any of the backline players pick up a tournament-ending injury.