As the British & Irish Lions series looms, CRAIG LEWIS picks six players who could be bolters for the Springbok squad.
The Cheetahs stalwart has just recently turned 37 years old. Ironically, it’s the same age of Schalk Brits when he was recalled to the Bok squad in 2018. And we all know how well that turned out.
In the time that’s passed since the 2019 World Cup, Faf de Klerk remains the incumbent starting scrumhalf, while Cobus Reinach may well have worked his way into second spot in the pecking order.
It’s the berth of the third scrumhalf that could well be up for grabs. The Boks could do a whole lot worse than take a closer look at Pienaar, who would offer leadership, vast experience of northern hemisphere opponents, as well as specialist scrumhalf cover (although he boasts utility value to boot).
Who doesn’t love an underdog story? A call-up for Wiese would have been unforeseeable a few months ago, but the 25-year-old has regularly been in ‘beast mode’ for the Leicester Tigers.
The former Cheetahs workhorse is in the form of his life, and would be a superb addition to the Springboks’ loose-forward arsenal.
AKKER VAN DER MERWE
Following the retirement of Brits, the Bok coaches will be looking for a third hooker to join the ranks to offer back-up to Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx.
The ‘angry warthog’ has recently sent out a reminder of his qualities with some barnstorming performance for the Sale Sharks, and he certainly would another menacing presence to the Bok squad.
Joseph Dweba could still hold an outside chance, but don’t bet against a recall for Van der Merwe.
Hendricks is another player who has proven all season that age isn’t a factor, with the 32-year-old emerging as one of the standout backs throughout the extended South African domestic season.
His pathway to the Boks may be hindered by the fact Damian de Allende is sure to remain in possession of the No 12 jersey, while Frans Steyn offers the inside centre cover.
Yet, if any player has earned serious consideration based on domestic form, Hendricks is that man.
In terms of the Boks’ squad considerations, one has to be looking at their loosehead prop depth following the retirement of Beast Mtawarira.
Steven Kitshoff will claim the No 1 jersey, but beyond the ‘Spicy Plum’, it will be interesting to see who the Bok coaches back.
I’d need to defer to a scrum expert to know whether Nche remains a frontrunner to operate as Kitshoff’s ‘bomb squad’ back up, but the Sharks star has been viewed as a possible Mtawarira successor on the Bok radar for some time.
MARCO VAN STADEN
Once again when looking at the Bok squad composition post-World Cup, the world champs will head into this series without the services of breakdown maestro Francois Louw.
It’s a crucial role, and no rugby lover will ever forget the impact Heinrich Brussow had during the 2009 series against the British & Irish Lions.
Van Staden was in superb form during his final season with the Vodacom Bulls, and ‘Eskom’ certainly possesses ‘bolter’ abilities to shoot the Lions’ lights out.
*Ed’s note: Aphelele Fassi was not considered for selection in this feature simply because I don’t view him as a ‘bolter’ (as his call-up should be well assured).