Jacques Nienaber will be naming his 46-man Springbok squad to take on the British & Irish Lions at 18:00 today.
This is Nienaber’s first-ever Springbok squad having taken over the reigns from Rassie Erasmus.
The Springboks have not played since they won the Rugby World Cup final against England on 2 November 2019. The Covid-19 caused a halt in play for South African rugby.
SHARKS SUPER START TO THE SEASON
Before the forced break, the Sharks were leading Super Rugby. Regular Bok starters Makazole Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am continued to build on their World Cup form.
Then, some new names started to emerge. The likes of Ox Nche, James Venter, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Phepsi Buthelezi, Sanele Nohambe and Aphelele Fassi all putting their names into the minds of the Bok selectors. More recently, Jaden Hendrikse has shown promise as a potential future star.
SA then entered six months without rugby being played but during this time two game-changing signings accorded.
First, the Bulls appointed the legendary Jake White before the Sharks bought Springbok Captain Siya Kolisi at the start of the year. Kolisi is improving with every game.
THE ERA OF JAKE WHITE’S BULLS
The men from Pretoria won Vodacom SuperRugby unlocked, The Currie Cup and are currently set to represent SA and the South in the North vs South Pro14 Rainbow Cup Final. Trevor Nyakane and Lizo Gqoboka are back to their best. There is no doubt that they should be called up. Marco van Staden epitomizes the Bulls’ success, enforcing his physical dominance with every carry and tackle made.
Morne Steyn returned looking better than ever. The darling of Loftus Versfeld is playing in his prime and looking like the same Steyn that kicked the winning penalty against the British & Irish Lions in 2009. Cornel Hendriks has returned to form – this time as the center instead of on the wing (where he played for the Springboks).
During this time, we have witnessed the rise of some new big names in SA Rugby. None more so than Ruan Nortje, the Bulls lock will undoubtfully earn his first Springbok call-up today. He scored the match-winning try against the Stormers last night. Nortje reminds me of Victor Matfield in the line-outs and Lood De Jager with ball in hand. Putting 110% into every game he plays. His intensity, passion and work ethic have been instrumental to the Bulls’ success.
Rosko Specman stood out at both the Cheetahs and Bulls, looking every bit the scintillating Blitzboks-winger that earned himself the name ‘Specmagic’.
STORMERS SPRINGBOK STARS
Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi and Frans Malherbe have carried their form from the World Cup into their season with the Stormers.
Hershel Jantjies has continued to be his feisty self on the field. Thankfully, Pieter Steph du Toit returned just over a month ago and has played the full 80 minutes in his last three games. Du Toit is in fine form and will be key to Nienaber’s side.
The Lions have struggled for form but have had some stand-out performances from Wandisile Simelane who could well earn his first-ever call up to the side.
INCREDIBLE INTERNATIONAL INFLUENCE
The return of Springbok talisman Handre Pollard will bring huge relief to Nienaber and Erasmus.
Willie Le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Damien de Allende, Faf de Klerk, Eben Etzebeth and Malcolm Marx are all in top form.
Akker van der Merwe, Dan du Preez, Luc Du Preez and Kasper Wiese have stood out. A first-ever call-up to the national side is imminent for Wiese who has been excellent for English-side Leicester Tigers. RG Snyman, Lood de Jager and Warrick Gelant are nursing injuries while Notshe is unfortunately out for the rest of the year.
Duane Vermeulen came off after injuring his ankle last night. Springbok supporters will be hoping it is not too serious.
Nienaber announces his first-ever Springbok squad at 18:30 today.