Ahead of this Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash in Wellington, MARIETTE ADAMS and DYLAN JACK speculate as to who will feature in the Bok pack against the All Blacks.
Adams – With so many good options available for selection in every position, predicting the eight starting forwards would have been a difficult task every other week. Fortunately, Rassie Erasmus’ decision to go with split squads for the opening two Rugby Championship Tests – against Australia and New Zealand – makes it a little easier to estimate who will start in Wellington this weekend.
With the exception of utility forward Pieter-Steph du Toit and lock Eben Etzebenth, I can’t imagine any of the players who were on duty against the Wallabies to feature in the starting lineup – especially when 14 others had been hand-picked to travel to New Zealand earlier to acclimatise.
In the back row, Duane Vermeulen is an automatic selection at No 8. I reckon after his excellent performance against Australia, Du Toit retains the No 7 jersey, while Kwagga Smith will get the nod at openside flank in the absence of the injured Siya Kolisi.
Eben Etzebeth being handed the captaincy for the first Test would suggest that he will get game time against the All Blacks too, and that points to him partnering Franco Mostert in the second row. RG Snyman and Mostert, who both travelled to Wellington with the so-called ‘A’ team, have had superb individual campaigns for the Vodacom Bulls and Gloucester, respectively. I think Etzebeth will pip oft rash Snyman to the N0 4 jersey.
Much like Vermeulen, Malcolm Marx is a dead cert in the run-on XV. Erasmus did send over three props in the form of Frans Malhelbe, Steven Kitshoff and Thomas du Toit. I believe the tried and tested front-row combination of Marx, Malherbe and Kitshoff will front the All Blacks, with Du Toit featuring off the bench.
Prediction: No 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Jack – It would certainly come as a surprise if Rassie Erasmus did not back most, if not, all the forwards who flew over to New Zealand before the match against the Wallabies.
Duane Vermeulen is a good bet to lead the side, even if Eben Etzebeth, who captained against the Wallabies, starts in Wellington.
After an excellent showing against the Wallabies, Pieter-Steph du Toit should be the only forward to retain his place in the starting lineup, while Kwagga Smith will provide a more like-for-like replacement for Siya Kolisi than Rynhardt Elstadt did in Johannesburg.
It will be interesting to see if Erasmus continues to back Etzebeth, who does need game time after a stop-start Vodacom Super Rugby campaign, or gives RG Snyman a run at No 4. Snyman did give the Vodacom Bulls a different attacking dimension with his ability to identify space and offload.
Meanwhile, the front row virtually picks itself, given that Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx and Steven Kitshoff have already acclimatised to conditions in Wellington.
Prediction: 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
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