CRAIG LEWIS identifies six players who will be key to the Springboks’ cause in a World Cup year.
Pollard somewhat flew under the radar in 2018, but there can be no denying that his return to form was key to the team’s resurgence. As the season progressed, Pollard increasingly began to control proceedings with aplomb, while testing defences with his willingness to take the ball to the line. After starting the Rugby Championship with a couple of shaky goal-kicking performances, this aspect of his game importantly went from strength to strength. Heading towards his second World Cup, the 24-year-old will need to rise to the occasion as a Bok general, who also has a key role to play when regularly shifting to inside centre late in the game.
The World Rugby Breakthrough Player of the Year will face a big challenge in meeting expectations in 2019. Of course, Dyantyi will now be a marked man, and there will be an onus on him to continue lifting his standards of performance. The talented winger emerged as a key attacking weapon for the Boks in 2018, and Rassie Erasmus will know that a fit and firing Dyantyi will be essential to their World Cup campaign. It’s of utmost importance that the youngster is well-managed during Super Rugby to ensure he is performing at his peak by the time the global showpiece rolls around.
The Bok skipper had to shoulder an immense amount of responsibility following his historic appointment as captain. After some patchy performances in the June Test series, his game only got better and better in the Rugby Championship. Yet, by the end of the year, Kolisi was clearly tapping into the last of his energy reserves after carrying a heavy workload for the Stormers and Boks. He is another player who must be carefully managed in 2019, but it goes without saying that he will have a massive role to play for the Springboks as both a player and leader in a World Cup year.
It speaks volumes about the quality and class of the Springbok hooker that despite some fluctuating form at times in 2018, he still earned nominations in both the SA Rugby and World Rugby Player of the Year categories. With the Boks often opting against fielding a specialist openside flank, Marx’s ability over the ball makes him such an integral member of the Bok pack. When you add his mobility, ball-carrying strengths and defensive power to the equation, it goes without saying that the 24-year-old will be one of the Boks’ most important players at the 2019 World Cup.
FAF DE KLERK
At the start of 2018, the Boks remained on the hunt for a player who could firmly take hold of the problematic No 9 jersey. In that context, De Klerk’s emergence as a much-improved halfback general proved to be one of the good-news rugby stories of the year. The dynamic Sale Sharks star has quickly become an integral role-player in a Bok team that values a high-tempo attack and efficient linespeed on defence. Beyond that, the Boks have also relied on De Klerk’s kicking game, which has evolved during his time in the northern hemisphere. Fitness and form permitting, there is little doubt that the 27-year-old will head to the World Cup as the Boks’ first-choice scrumhalf.
PIETER-STEPH DU TOIT
Erasmus has revealed that Du Toit proved him completely wrong through a series of barnstorming performances in 2018. Before taking over as Bok coach, Erasmus had questioned aspects of Du Toit’s game and his commitment to the Springbok cause. Yet it didn’t take long for the versatile forward to change that opinion as he emerged as the most influential performer for the Springboks in 2018. Boasting an immense work rate and an ability to capably play at lock or flank, Du Toit now looks to be one of the first names that will be inked in for the World Cup squad.
Photo: SA Rugby