In a month where the Boks had been scheduled to play Test rugby, editor CRAIG LEWIS explores the depth of SA rugby by picking a pack of ‘alternative’ players who weren’t involved in the World Cup.
If one had to pick a hypothetical Springbok side who were actually set to front up to Scotland last Saturday, of course it’s easy to assume the selections wouldn’t have strayed too far from the World Cup-winning group, bar the odd experimental introduction.
One thing that can’t be debated, though, is that Rassie Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber do have plenty of other options at their disposal.
To take this concept one step further, we take a look at a group of highly capable Springbok hopefuls who wouldn’t be out of place in a hypothetical ‘non-World Cup XV’.
First up, we look at the options among the forwards …
LOOSEHEAD PROP: Ox Nche
This is actually quite a challenging selection when you consider both Lizo Gqoboka and Ox Nche are immensely capable successors to retired great Beast Mtawarira.
On the basis of form at the start of Vodacom Super Rugby, though, you can’t look too much further than Nche, who is known to have been very much on the Bok coaches’ radar after making a successful move to the Sharks.
HOOKER: Joseph Dweba
Again, there are plenty of options beyond the incumbent duo of Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx. There’s overseas-based Akker van der Merwe, combative Scarra Ntubeni and up-and-coming Kerron van Vuuren.
However, it’s Dweba who was set for an introduction to the wider Springbok picture, and despite his decision to sign for French club Bordeaux-Begles, he remains someone who should be seen in green and gold sooner rather than later.
TIGHTHEAD PROP: Carlu Sadie
With Frans Malherbe, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch and Thomas du Toit, the Boks are incredibly well stocked in terms of tighthead prop options.
It would be tough for anyone to displace those World Cup winners, but highly regarded 23-year-old Carlu Sadie has been spoken of as a future Springbok for some time, and would be well deserving of an opportunity at Test level.
NO 4 LOCK: Salmaan Moerat
The Boks are blessed with depth in the second row, but it’s also exciting to consider the youthful options available such as Salmaan Moerat, Cobus Wiese, Jason Jenkins and even JJ van der Mescht.
All are Springboks in the making, but Moerat – the former Junior Springbok captain – is a force to be reckoned with, and may very well have received higher honours during the scheduled July Test ‘window’.
NO 5 LOCK: JD Schickerling
Similarly to Moerat, there was a feeling earlier this year that the time had come for Stormers teammate JD Schickerling to take the step up to the Springbok stage.
Now 25 years old, Schickerling has overcome remarkable challenges, and is starting to fulfil the immense potential that would certainly make him a strong Bok contender in a position where the likes of Marvin Orie, Hyron Andrews and Sintu Manjezi will all want to make a play for primary backup to Lood de Jager and Franco Mostert.
Openside flank: Jaco Coetzee
Dynamic, albeit relatively diminutive performers such as James Venter, Marco van Staden, Cyle Brink and even Marnus Schoeman would all have something to offer at national level, and then that’s not even mentioning Rynhardt Elstadt.
But it’s the versatile Jaco Coetzee who enjoyed a standout season in 2019, and boasts all the raw potential to come into his own under the guidance of a coach like Erasmus.
Blindside flank: Marcell Coetzee
In time, Johan du Toit may well push for consideration in this position, while overseas-based Jean-luc du Preez and Ruan Ackermann may be somewhat out of sight, but not out of mind.
Yet, it’s Coetzee who simply has to vindicate selection somewhere in this hypothetical side, and while he may be increasingly more comfortable at No 8, the 29-year-old is more than capable of slotting in at No 7.
No 8: Sikhumbuzo Notshe
No one would argue if Juarno Augustus was put forward in this position, while Hacjivah Dayimani has even played at 8 for the Lions, and yet you can’t look beyond Sikhumbuzo Notshe.
Notshe was simply unstoppable at the start of Vodacom Super Rugby this year, displaying the sort of form at the Sharks that put him firmly back in the frame as a viable return candidate for the Springbok set-up.