An enlarged 45-man Springbok squad for the British & Irish Lions series is set to be named on Saturday. Editor CRAIG LEWIS turns selector and picks a squad to face the tourists.
From 6:30pm on Saturday, SA Rugby president Mark Alexander will unveil the squads for the two Tests against Georgia as well as the long-awaited Lions series.
The series will start with a clash between Warren Gatland’s touring team and the Johannesburg-based Lions on 3 July, but the day before that the Boks will face Georgia in a warm-up match. This will be followed by a second clash with Georgia on 9 July, with the venues for these matches yet to be announced.
It is expected that the Springboks will field their strongest available sides in these warm-up games as they aim to ensure a battle-ready team can go into the first Lions Test with confidence on 24 July.
Last week, Erasmus revealed that they would be working with 45 players until the SA A game on 14 July, after which the squad will then be whittled down to between 35 and 37 players.
With all this in mind, it’s worth considering what that expanded group might look like.
The Bok coaches have already made it clear that they will understandably be including the vast majority of their World Cup squad, with just Francois Louw, Beast Mtawarira and Schalk Brits having retired since then.
There are injury doubts over Lood de Jager and RG Snyman, and it’s for this reason I have bracketed them with two backup players in Nico Janse van Rensburg and Jason Jenkins.
Sikhumbuzo Notshe is unfortunately unavailable, while Salmaan Moerat also misses out in this selection due to the injury cloud hanging over him.
Among the forwards, my squad selection would include Jasper Wiese, Joseph Dweba, Akker van der Merwe, Marcell Coetzee and the Du Preez twins Dan and Jean-Luc. The loose forwards would be further boosted by the presence of Willie Engelbrecht and Rynhardt Elstadt for the SA A game.
Among a group of 21 backs picked, the unfortunate omissions would be Curwin Bosch, Andre Esterhuizen, Dillyn Leyds and Raymond Rhule.
However, Morne Steyn comes in as the ‘third’ flyhalf, Jan Serfontein would earn a deserved call-up, while I’ve rather rewarded local wings Yaw Penxe and Rosko Specman.
For the ‘fourth’ scrumhalf in the group, it was an almost impossible choice between Embrose Papier, Sanele Nohamba or Jaden Hendrikse, but ultimately I opted for the latter.
Here is the squad I’d go with:
Loosehead props: Steven Kitshoff (Stormers), Lizo Gqoboka (Bulls), Ox Nche (Sharks)
Hookers: Bongi Mbonambi (Stormers), Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears), Joseph Dweba (Bordeaux), Akker van der Merwe (Sale Sharks)
Tighthead props: Frans Malherbe (Stormers), Trevor Nyakane (Bulls), Vincent Koch (Saracens, England)
Swing prop: Thomas du Toit (Sharks)
Locks: Lood de Jager (Sale)/Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg (Montpellier), Eben Etzebeth (Toulon), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat), RG Snyman/Jason Jenkins (both Munster)
Loose forwards: Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers), Siya Kolisi (captain, Sharks), Marcell Coetzee (Bulls), Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Jubilo), Duane Vermeulen (Bulls), Jasper Wiese (Leicester), Rynhardt Elstadt (Toulouse), Jean-Luc du Preez (Sale), Dan du Preez (Sale), Willie Engelbrecht (Pumas/Stormers)
Scrumhalves: Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks), Herschel Jantjies (Stormers), Cobus Reinach (Montpellier), Jaden Hendrikse (Sharks)
Flyhalves: Handre Pollard (Montpellier), Elton Jantjies (Lions), Morne Steyn (Bulls)
Centres: Lukhanyo Am (Sharks), Damian de Allende (Munster), Jan Serfontein (Montpellier), Wandisile Simelane (Lions), Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles)
Wings: Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse), Makazole Mapimpi (Sharks), Sbu Nkosi (Sharks), Yaw Penxe (Sharks), Rosko Specman (Cheetahs)
Fullbacks: Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz), Aphelele Fassi (Sharks)
Utility backs: Frans Steyn (Cheetahs), Damian Willemse (Stormers)