Rassie’s Picks

Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck, Dillyn Leyds, Lionel Mapoe, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Jan Serfontein, Raymond Rhule, Pat Lambie, Ross Cronje, Cobus Reinach, Jano Vermaak, Warren Whiteley, JP Pietersen, Vincent Koch, Coenie Oosthuizen, Eben Etzebeth, Malcolm Marx, Rudy Paige, Francois Hougaard, Francois Louw, Courtnall Skosan, Uzair Cassiem, Francois Venter, Ruan Dreyer, Louis Schreuder, Johan Goosen, Jamba Ulengo, Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss, Lood de Jager, Piet van Zyl, Lwazi Mvovo, Juan de Jongh, Jaco Kriel, Morne Steyn, Willem Alberts, Bryan Habana, Julian Redelinghuys…………..

Do you recognise any of those names?

Of course you do, they are all recent Springboks.

They all played for South Africa in the last two years.

Under Allister Coetzee.

None of them feature in Rassie Erasmus’ first Springbok squad of 2018.

Without a doubt some would feature in Rassie’s team if they were available. Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth, and Lood de Jager for sure, Jaco Kriel and Warren Whiteley perhaps, maybe Pat Lambie too. They are all out of contention due to injuries.

But the rest of that long long list of names makes interesting reading. 38 names of recent Springboks who do not feature in the 2018 squad announced by Rassie Erasmus, of which only 6 are real contenders but who are out of contention due to injuries.

Oh, and Julian Redelinghuys and Bryan Habana have retired from the game.

So, 6 injuries and 2 retirees.

If you do the simple arithmetic you find you are left with 30 players who have been left out of the latest Springbok squad.

Perhaps this should be a very worrying number? Where is the continuity? Where is the consistency? Where is the foundation of a team that started building right after the 2015 World Cup?

Where is Allister Coetzee’s team?

If ever there was an illustration of the woes that beset South African rugby in the two years that Coetzee was in charge, it is in reading the list of players who must now be considered Springbok discards. Players were haphazardly chosen and discarded with gay abandon. Players who were often selected to play out of position and with little thought for continuity or the development of a core squad. Many choices seemed to defy logic – Where did X come from? Why was he selected? Why was a scrumhalf playing wing, or a flyhalf at fullback?

All that is now consigned to history.

There is a new sheriff in town, and he is wielding a big broom.

It is time to sweep the floor and dust down the shelves.

The New Broom

Rassie Erasmus has announced his Springbok squad for the four Tests next month, against Wales, and then the series against England.

He has announced a squad of no less than 43 players, including 17 uncapped newcomers. The squad will in all likelihood be trimmed down after the somewhat unnecessary fixture against Wales next week.

The new Springbok squad consists of a mixture of new and experienced players who have all shown form and performed well in Super Rugby and the PRO14, the French Top 14, and the English Aviva Premiership.

The squad boasts some very exciting new talent combined with experienced stalwarts.

The squad consists of 24 forwards and 19 backs and the 26 players with Test experience have a combined total of 627 caps.

New Faces:

The uncapped players are Ox Nche (prop), Thomas du Toit (prop), Akker van der Merwe (hooker), RG Snyman (lock), Marvin Orie (lock), Jason Jenkins (lock), Sikhumbuzo Notshe (loose forward), Kwagga Smith (loose forward), Ivan van Zyl (scrum-half), Embrose Papier (scrum-half), Cameron Wright (scrum-half), Robert du Preez (fly-half), Andre Esterhuizen (centre), Sibusiso Nkosi (wing), Aphiwe Dyantyi (wing), Makazole Mapimpi (wing) and Travis Ismaiel (wing).

Foreign Contingent:

Erasmus has also included five players from abroad. They are Bismarck du Plessis (hooker), Duane Vermeulen (number eight), Faf de Klerk (scrum-half), Frans Steyn (centre) and Willie le Roux (full-back).

SA Rugby granted Erasmus special permission to include overseas-based players with fewer than the required 30 Test caps where it was believed there was insufficient depth in SA.

Captain:

No captain has been announced yet. With both Warren Whiteley and Eben Etzebeth on the injured list Erasmus will have to find a new captain and leader for the current squad. We are told that he does not favour the idea of a captain appointed for a season or a full tour. He favours the idea of a leadership group from which the captain for the day is selected. Duane Vermeulen, Handré Pollard, and Siya Kolisi are all names that we might hear.

He will make an announcement on the captaincy on Monday 28th May.

The June Tests:

The Springboks begin their international season on Saturday, 2 June against Wales in Washington DC, which will be the first time that Erasmus takes charge of the team.

Following the match in Washington, the Boks then return to South Africa to face a powerful England side in three much-anticipated Tests in the Incoming Series. Ellis Park in Johannesburg host the series opener on 9 June, the second Test is scheduled for 16 June at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, and the final encounter will be played on 23 June at Newlands in Cape Town.

Comment:

If we examine the squad announced by Erasmus, there are no surprises, and no obviously contentious selections. Among the new players, three of the four scrumhalves in the squad are uncapped: Embrose Papier and Ivan van Zyl of the Bulls, and Cameron Wright of the Sharks. Faf de Klerk immediately stands out as the obvious starting 9 in the tests.

Also among the uncapped players are the second-row pairing of RG Snyman and Jason Jenkins, who represented South Africa together at the U/20 level. Ex-Lion-now-Sharks hooker Akker van der Merwe, and ex-Stormer-now-Sharks flyhalf Robert du Preez, are deservedly included in the squad after their recent good form. Robert is one of three du Preez brothers in the squad, joining brothers Dan and Jean-Luc.

The return of Willie le Roux, together with the selection of Warrick Gelant, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Travis Ismaiel, Curwin Bosch, Makazole Mapimpi, and Sbu Nkosi as outside backs provides for the selection of a whole new back three, a unit that seems to have more defensive spine than their predecessors, and more options under the high ball too.

The only notable names missing from the squad seem to be Marco van Staden, Madosh Tambwe, Harold Vorster, Ruan Botha, and Damian Willemse.

It is a large squad, but it does seem to represent the best the country has to offer in 2018.

The Springbok squad for the June internationals:

Outside backs: Curwin Bosch (Sharks), Aphiwe Dyantyi (Lions), Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel (both Bulls), Willie le Roux (Wasps), Makazole Mapimpi, Sbu Nkosi (both Sharks).

Midfield: Lukhanyo Am (Sharks), Damian de Allende (Stormers), Andre Esterhuizen (Sharks), Jesse Kriel (Bulls), Frans Steyn (Montpellier)

Flyhalves: Robert du Preez (Sharks), Elton Jantjies (Lions), Handre Pollard (Bulls)

Scrumhalves: Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks), Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl (both Bulls), Cameron Wight (Sharks)

Props: Thomas du Toit (Sharks), Steven Kitshoff, Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe (all Stormers), Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Ox Nche (Cheetahs), Trevor Nyakane (Bulls)

Hookers: Bismarck du Plessis (Montpellier), Bongi Mbonambi (Stormers), Chilliboy Ralepelle, Akker van der Merwe (both Sharks)

Locks: Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers), Jason Jenkins (Bulls), Franco Mostert, Marvin Orie (both Lions), RG Snyman (Bulls)

Loose Forwards: Nizaam Carr, Siya Kolisi, Sikhumbuzo Notshe (all Stormers), Dan du Preez, Jean-Luc du Preez (Both Sharks), Kwagga Smith (Lions), Oupa Mohoje (Cheetahs), Duane Vermeulen (Toulon).

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. Pieter Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager are all a big loss. A tough, experienced trio of locks who are all good lineout exponents, carry the ball well and make more than their fair share of tackles. Sure we have depth in some positions, but there is no substitute for the experience these three bring to the backbone of this team.
    I harp on about the “Spine of a rugby team” and looking at this squad, they have the options of picking a starting team with spine. Bismarck, Duane, Faf, Handre and Willie bring guts, intelligence and flair. However, will Rassie be allowed to start with the team he wants to? In all 4 upcoming Tests I would start with Jantjies at 10. Make or break. Pollard off the bench and Steyn partnered with Am at centre and van Zyl to start at 9.
    It is a pity that the Lions do not know how to pick a backline. Mapoe was thrown away when they moved him to centre. he is a very good finisher and is a natural wing. The same pretty much applies to Combrinck who should be played at fullback. A back three for Washington is a problem. Rassie must expose Mapimpi at some stage and see whether the guy can defend. The Bulls exposed him twice. Bosch is a good fullback but do not expect him to switch to 10. Travis Ismael and my favourite Sbu Nkosi will never let any team down.
    In the forwards, drug cheat Ralapelle is lucky as he has had very little time as a starting hooker. Mbonambi would be my benchman and should start in Washington. Pick Louw and Kitshoff and keep them motivated for a full game and they should be unmatched.
    At loose forward Rassie will have to retrain a couple of players or else pick Smith & Mohoje and expect to give away penalties all day. Who plays No 8 in Washington will not be a No 8. But then Rassie has never cared about specialist loose forwards.

    This is England’s Squad:
    ENGLAND’S TOUR SQUAD

    Backs: Mike Brown (Harlequins), Danny Cipriani (Wasps), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Nathan Earle (Saracens), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Alex Lozowski (Saracens), Jonny May (Leicester Tigers), Cameron Redpath (Sale Sharks), Dan Robson (Wasps), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Denny Solomona (Sale Sharks), Ben Spencer (Saracens), Ben Te’o (Worcester Warriors), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers).

    Forwards: Luke Cowan-Dickie (Exeter Chiefs), Tom Curry (Sale Sharks), Ben Earl (Saracens), Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers), Jamie George (Saracens), Jonny Hill (Exeter Chiefs), Nick Isiekwe (Saracens), Maro Itoje (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Joe Marler (Harlequins), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Brad Shields (Hurricanes/ Wasps), Sam Simmonds (Exeter Chiefs), Kyle Sinckler (Harlequins), Billy Vunipola (Saracens), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs), Jack Willis (Wasps), Mark Wilson (Newcastle).

    Notable absentees are Dan Cole, Danny Care and George Kruis, but this is a formidable squad. Many of these guys toured New Zealand with the B&I Lions and were excellent.
    They should beat the Boks 3-0.

    • I would not have Jantjies in any team that I could pick. Ever. He is a liability with his frailty under pressure and wayward tactical kicking.
      I did publish the England squad under “Eddies Squad” although some late injuries have forced changes.
      I am not so sure that they will beat the Boks.

  2. I guess that picking a squad this large makes it much easier! I think he has done a decent job and cannot think of many who should/should not be there although there are a few! And we won’t necessarily know our “real” 15 / 23 until a bit later.

    I think I will reserve real comment until then