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Bok newbies under the spotlight

SPOTLIGHT: In a bold step to create depth that can take the Springboks forward several stars have emerged from the United Rugby Championship and the European tournaments to win their first Bok call-up.


With the one-off Tests against Wales and Portugal, either side of the two Tests against Ireland, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has a prime opportunity to inject the Springbok team with fresh, young talent.

The Bok boss is known as a coach who is keen to give opportunities where it is deserved and will certainly be eager to test players in those two matches.

Here we take a look at the eleven rookies that made the final cut when the Springbok squad was announced the past Saturday.

Jordan Hendrikse

Hendrikse made his mark on the senior rugby scene when he debuted for the Lions at the age of 19 in 2021.

His stellar debut season was rewarded with nominations for the 2021 Junior Springbok Player of the Year and SA Young Player of the Year awards.

In 2022, Jordan was called up to the Springbok Sevens squad for the London Sevens and made an impressive debut for the BlitzBoks.

While he struggled with niggling injuries and was moved from flyhalf to centre late in the season, the big strong 22-year-old has the credentials, the touch and feel, and the natural ability most of the top flyhalves have in their armour.

Quan Horn

During the 2022/23 season, the fullback was awarded the tournament’s Iron Man Award.


While the ever-improving Horn has always been one of the stand-out performers for the Lions since he made his senior debut, this season he made some eye-catching and powerful runs, crashing into defenders with a no-holds-barred attitude.

His quick feet and ability to step into space also his kicking capabilities make him the full package at No. 15.

Edwill van der Merwe

During an interview in May, Van der Merwe told Rugby365 he was unperturbed by the lack of a Springbok invite and he was just enjoying his rugby at the Lions.

And let’s be honest – were it not for the untimely injuries to the two Springbok wings Canan Moodie, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Cheslin Kolbe, Van der Merwe would probably not have received that call last week.

But there is no doubt that the wing has the physical attributes and speed that make him a formidable force.


In March this year, the 28-year-old became the first South African-based player to hit 20 United Rugby Championship tries.

Since joining the Lions in 2021 from the Stormers, the flyer has been a prominent figure for the Johannesburg team.

He scored a blistering try during the Lions’ historic 38-14 win over Connacht earlier in the season and to be frank, his highlights reel is a pleasure to watch. He loves scoring spectacular tries while his efforts on defence is top-notch as well.

Morné van den Berg

The 26-year-old Van den Berg has been steadily growing in confidence and settling in as the first-choice scrumhalf at the Lions.

The exciting scrumhalf has been tearing up the rugby fields in the United Rugby Championship as well as the Challenge Cup the last two seasons with some sterling performances.

The Lions’ No. 9 is known as a hard-working individual who often stays on the field long after training has concluded to hone his skills.

He is a scrumhalf in the Faf de Klerk mould, but probably more nippy and hard-working than the Springbok.

He is the type of player that will never let any team down.

Phepsi Buthelezi

John Plumtree believes Buthelezi could develop into a No. 6 in the mould of Siya Kolisi with similar attributes to the two-time World Cup-winning Bok captain.

“I think Phepsi could develop into a pretty good six, in the Siya Kolisi-type mould. He’s pretty relentless around the park so he has a good workrate,” he told reporters earlier in the season.

“His skill set around just poaching the ball and turning possession over he’s going to have to improve on and get better at, but he’s obviously a line-out option as well.

“Phepsi has had a good season and he’s proven to me that he’s pretty resilient with the amount of games that he has played. I’m not saying he’s going to be a six, seven, and eight, but I’d certainly like him to be able to play in both positions.”

Siya Masuku

The 27-year-old Masuku has gone from strength to strength since joining the Durbanites towards the end of 2023.

Masuku is a hugely exciting game-breaker with a highly educated boot.

Masuku has shown all the attributes Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus demands from a player – calmness under pressure, slotting the match-winner from the touchline like a seasoned professional, and putting his body on the line for the team.

Sharks coach John Plumtree believes it is not just his assured goal-kicking that showcases his qualities.

“He’s still going to get better,” Plumtree told @rugby36t5com – when asked if he has shades of Springbok Henry Honiball in his make-up.

“His skill set can improve, his passing can improve and he can improve as an athlete,” the coach added.

“He hasn’t reached anywhere near his ceiling yet.

“When he goes for touch, he doesn’t just try for 30 metres, he looks for 40 metres.

“I love his attitude around the game and the players like him.

“He is riding the crest of the wave at the moment.”

Ethan Hooker

In March the Sharks posted a short video of Hooker, captioning it ‘Remember this name’.

Hooker’s time has come, probably much earlier than he could have expected.

The young centre turned 21 in January but despite his youth, he cuts a muscular presence in midfield for the Sharks in the absence of the injured Lukhanyo Am.

Hooker actually made his debut for the Sharks last season when the Durban team played Connacht in Galway. He was just 20.

He is a strongly built player with a pace to burn and can only benefit from finding himself in the presence of the country’s best.

Ben-Jason Dixon

The 26-year-old Dixon has established himself as an important cog in the Stormers’ engine room.

The Stormers’ loose forward had a belter of a season in the No. 7 jersey with his never-say-die attitude and workrate on the field.

This has led some pundits to liken him to Springbok star Pieter-Steph du Toit, and it’s maybe not a bad thing that he can function as a lock as well.

He hit 50 caps earlier this season against the Lions which just shows that he has become an influential player for the Capetonians.

Stormers forwards coach Rito Hlungwani has said: “He is a hard worker, and does have all the qualities to become one of the better No.7s in the world one day.

“I have worked with him at Under-19 and U21-level, and it is so nice to see his progress. And because I’ve worked with him so long, I totally understand what drives him.

“He has a very high workrate, probably one of the best tackle techniques you will see. If you want to teach a kid to tackle, BJ is that technique in a rugby textbook somewhere.”

Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu

The 22-year-old Feinberg-Mngomezulu has been described by none other than former Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber as a brilliant rugby player.

The South Africa U20 international was included in Erasmus’ alignment camp earlier this year and although he is eligible to play for England through his father, he chose to play for South Africa.

In October 2022 he was included in the squad for the Springboks’ year-end tour but he is still uncapped.

“He’s athletic, fast, quick, and agile. He has good skills. He had to make a decision between soccer and rugby, so he’s a skillful guy. From a defensive viewpoint, he really impressed me for his age,” Nienaber said at the time.

He has managed to get selected at every level since the age of 13 – Grant Khomo Week, Craven Week, SA Schools, SA Sevens [under-18 team], Western Province, and Stormers.

“Sacha has been earmarked as a generational talent since he was a schoolboy and it has been great to see him break through into the senior ranks in the last few seasons,” says Stormers Director of Rugby John Dobson.

Neethling Fouche

The tighthead has developed into one of the stalwarts at the Stormers after an injury-plagued junior career that prevented him from taking flight when he was fresh out of school.

The 31-year-old has developed into a fearsome prop over the last six years in the Western Province system and this has culminated in his inclusion in the Springbok squad.

Fouche is a valuable member of the Stormers’ engine room, bringing power and technical skills in the tight exchanges and set-pieces, while also providing some impressive skills in the loose.

Andre-Hugo Venter

The 22-year-old hooker and son of a Springbok great, Andre-Hugo Venter is writing his own story in a breakthrough year for the Stormers.

He has a no-nonsense, tough-as-nails approach to the game similar to his 66-Test cap father Andre.

As a young hooker, Venter is still developing as a member of the front row, a breed of player known to take some time to hit their peak.

He got his first taste of international rugby when he was called into South Africa’s ‘A’ squad that travelled for matches against Munster and Bristol Bears in November 2022.



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