In the final instalment of a six-part series, JON CARDINELLI highlights the Springboks’ quality in depth and where the world champions can improve in the next four-year cycle.
The battle for front-row positions over the past two seasons has been nothing short of epic. The good news for the Boks is that the internal competition within the squad looks set to continue over the next four years, even though Beast Mtawarira and Schalk Brits have retired.
A quick word on the Beast, though, and what his own quest for the No 1 jersey has done for the standards within the squad. Mtawarira took his game to a new level in 2019, and in doing so forced Steven Kitshoff to ascend to a higher plane of competence.
Kitshoff is a poweful scrummager yet is better know for his athleticism around the park. Indeed, the other looseheads that are coming through are in a similar mould. Lizo Gqoboka and Ox Nche – who’s been one of the form props in the 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby tournament – offer a lot at the breakdown and in a ball-carrying capacity. While Mtawaira has retired, these two players will certainly keep Kitshoff on his toes.
Swing props are needed in situations where squad numbers are limited – like an overseas tour or a World Cup. Trevor Nyakane and Thomas du Toit both served South Africa in this capacity last year, and both will need game time at No 1 and 3 to ensure they are fit for purpose come the series against the British & Irish Lions. At 24, Du Toit is young enough to play through to the next World Cup and could potentially move up the pecking order.
Frans Malherbe played a pivotal role for the Boks at the scrum last season and proved a lot of people wrong. There’s bound to be some debate about the Boks’ first-choice No 3, but the reality is that South Africa will need more than a few options over a period of four years. Beyond Malherbe, Nyakane, Vincent Koch and Du Toit, there’s Wilco Louw and the uncapped Lions strongman Carlu Sadie to consider.
|NO 1||NO 2||NO 3|
|2019 WORLD CUP SQUAD MEMBERS||STEVEN KITSHOFF (47)||BONGI MBONAMBI (36), MALCOLM MARX (33)||FRANS MALHERBE (38), TREVOR NYAKANE (42), VINCENT KOCH (21), THOMAS DU TOIT (12)|
|OTHER SQUAD MEMBERS 2018-2019||LIZO GQOBOKA (2), OX NCHE (1)||CHILIBOY RALEPELLE (25), AKKER VAN DER MERWE (3), SCARRA NTUBENI (1)||WILCO LOUW (13)|
|POSSIBLE BOLTERS||JOSEPH DWEBA, KERRON VAN VUUREN||CARLU SADIE|
|RETIRED||BEAST MTAWARIRA (117)||SCHALK BRITS (15)|
*Test caps in brackets
It remains to be seen when Bongi Mbonambi will return from a long-term injury. The Boks are well covered at hooker for the next four years, though, when one considers that Malcolm Marx is entering his prime and a number of fringe players are scrapping for an opportunity.
Akker van der Merwe has taken his game to the next level while on duty for Sale Sharks in England. In the absence of Mbonambi and Marx – who has been playing in Japan – Scarra Ntubeni has been the form hooker competing in South Africa.
That said, youngsters like Joseph Dweba of the Cheetahs and Kerron van Vuuren of the vastly improved Sharks will have given the national selectors food for thought.
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