JON CARDINELLI looks at five players based in Europe who could add value to the Springboks in the Test series against Ireland.
BISMARCK DU PLESSIS (Montpellier, France)
Du Plessis was the Boks' first-choice hooker between 2012 and 2015. He's been a force for Montpellier both at the set pieces and breakdowns. Indeed, a powerful performance at the tackle point influenced the flow of the recent European Challenge Cup final and ultimately helped Montpellier win the title. While many fans are punting the selections of Adriaan Strauss, Malcolm Marx, and the two Stormers hookers Bongi Mbonambi and Scarra Ntubeni, the Bok selectors must have noted Du Plessis's recent form in Europe. Clearly one of South Africa's greatest ever hookers still has more to give.
JOHAN GOOSEN (Racing 92, France)
A couple of months ago, Goosen may have been viewed by Allister Coetzee as a possible rather than a probable selection for the June Tests. However, following some average performances by South Africa's fullbacks in the 2016 Super Rugby tournament, and in the wake of the injury to Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies, the Boks will need a player like Goosen who has the ability to play several backline positions. Goosen has excelled at No 13 for Racing 92 this season, and showed his value as a goal-kicker in the recent European Champions Cup final against Saracens. South Africa appears to be well covered in the No 13 position, though, with Lionel Mapoe and Jesse Kriel the front-runners for the position this June. Goosen may be better utilised at fullback or flyhalf, positions he has played at international level before. If Jantjies does not feature, then the Boks will certainly need an experienced alternative to Lambie in the flyhalf position.
FRANCOIS LOUW (Bath, England)
Louw remains the outstanding candidate to wear the No 6 jersey against Ireland. Coetzee will lean on experienced players this June in the hope of securing his first series victory. He may also realise that few South African players have excelled in that fetching role over the course of the Super Rugby tournament. Against a team like Ireland, the Boks will need a breakdown specialist who can compete on the deck and slow the recycling of opposition ball. Players like Louw and Duane Vermeulen will also be tasked with forcing ruck turnovers and sparking counter-attacks.
RUAN PIENAAR (Ulster, Ireland)
Faf de Klerk and Rudy Paige have fired in patches this season, but should enjoy game time over the course of the three-Test series. What Coetzee may opt to do is bring a veteran like Pienaar in to mentor the youngsters, especially with regard to tactical kicking and game management. Pienaar could also provide some balance to a backline that will be wanting for experience. The Ulster scrumhalf's knowledge of the Ireland players and coaches will help a South African management team that hasn't had a lot of time to prepare for the coming series.
DUANE VERMEULEN (Toulon, France)
Many may have forgotten that it was Vermeulen who won the 2015 World Cup quarter-final for South Africa with one inspired display of power and skill. In the dying moments of the clash against Wales at Twickenham, the No 8 broke from the back of the scrum, drew a couple of defenders, and then got an incredible offload away to Fourie du Preez, who went on to score. Vermeulen's power in the tackle and prowess on the ground will be invaluable to the Boks this June, and in the months that follow. He has shown his ability as a leader over the past two seasons, and it would come as a surprise if he is not named Springbok captain for the series against Ireland.
Other overseas-based players worth considering: Willem Alberts and Morné Steyn (both Stade Français), Demetri Catrakilis, Jacques du Plessis and Frans Steyn (all from Montpellier), Steven Kitshoff (Bordeaux).
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