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The ins and outs of the Boks camp

SPOTLIGHT: It goes without saying, that whenever a Springboks squad or team is announced, media uproar usually follows.

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And that was no different when Rassie Erasmus named the 43 players that will attend the two-day alignment camp in Cape Town.

Aside from the passionate South African public, rivals are also fixated about who will be the next player to don the Green and Gold – and it’s more amplified now that Rassie Erasmus has returned as coach.

First and foremost, one has to know that the alignment camp is mainly to align players and coaches with the objectives of the year, meaning it provides coaches with the time and space to relay their plans and goals for the year and beyond.

It is an opportunity for the invited players to get a feel of the Springboks structures and for coaches to get to know the invited players in person.

One has to remember that the 43 players invited by Erasmus for the first alignment camp of the year, are not the pool of players he will exclusively select from in 2024.

The two-day camp starting on Monday, March 4, is one of three camps before the upcoming Test season – which includes the Incoming Series against Ireland, the first international against Portugal and the Rugby Championship.

Rassie and his new band

A lot has changed since the Boks were crowned World Cup champions again back in October 2023. Erasmus returned as head coach of the national squad, while Tony Brown and Jerry Flannery joined as the new assistant coaches.

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The former Ireland hooker and Harlequins assistant coach Flannery is in charge of defence, and former All Black flyhalf Brown is the attack coach.

The duo along with the rest of the coaching team which includes Mzwandile Stick, Deon Davids and Daan Human, as well as Andy Edwards as Head of Athletic Performance. will gather in Cape Town.

Flannery is no stranger to the Springbok structures as he spent time with the team ahead of last year’s World Cup in France.

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The 2023 Heroes

Erasmus included 19 members of the 36 players who were part of the triumphant 2023 World Cup squad.

The World Cup winners’ presence in the camp will be vital as they could give insight to their peers on the experience of being a Springbok.

Meanwhile, the likes of Siya Kolisi, Jasper Wiese, Handre Pollard, Steven Kitshoff and Cheslin Kolbe among others, have not been included due to their club commitments overseas.

Kwagga Smith, Faf De Klerk, Malcolm Marx and Jesse Kriel are the only Japan-based players in the group of 43 because they are currently recovering from injuries in South Africa and are available to attend.

2023 World Cup winners: Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Koch, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Malcolm Marx, Ox Nche, Kwagga Smith, Marco van Staden, Lukhanyo Am, Faf de Klerk, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Jaden Hendrikse, Jesse Kriel, Willie le Roux, Manie Libbok, Makazole Mapimpi, Canan Moodie, Damian Willemse, Grant Williams.

New Blood

There are 16 uncapped players – nine forwards and seven backs – that have been invited to the camp.

The list of players have proven themselves on a provincial level and they have a chance to gain first-hand experiences of how the Springboks operate.

Lions scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba and Stormers pair Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Suleiman Hartzenberg have all been involved with the South Africa ‘A’ side, but the trio has yet to earn a Springbok cap.

Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Quan Horn, Neethling Fouche and Marnus van der Merwe will all get their first taste of Springbok rugby.

Hooker Van der Merwe is the only Cheetah player invited to the camp. And while the 27-year-old is the first Cheetahs player to be called up to the camp since Frans Steyn, it does give a sense that Erasmus is not overlooking the non-URC South African franchises.

Uncapped players: Neetling Fouche, Johan Grobbelaar, Celimpilo Gumede, Hanekom, Andre-Hugo Venter, Marnus van der Merwe, Ruben Van Heerden, Ruan Venter, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Sasca Feinberg-Mngomezulu, Suleiman Hartzenberg, Jordan Hendrikse, Quan Horn, Sanela Nohamba, Morne van den Berg, Henco Van Wyk.

Another shot

Part of the 2019 World Cup-winning Springboks under Erasmus, Herschel Jantjies gets another shot at establishing himself as one of the top scrumhalves after missing the 2023 showpiece.

The Stormers scrumhalf faces stiff competition in the form of world-class scrumhalves like Faf De Klerk and Grant Williams. However, he is gradually regaining his form which evaded him last year.

Jantjies’ Stormers teammate Evan Roos, who made his debut in 2022 but then missed out on the World Cup, could add to his international tally this year.

Wilco Louw is another star who will be eager to gain more Springbok caps. The prop last played international rugby in 2021 but since joining the Bulls, he has been a class act.

Gerhard Steenekamp, Elrigh Louw, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Salmaan Moerat and Ruan Nortje are some of the other names that will be hoping for more Tests.

The omissions:

There have been a few murmurs regarding the absence of some in-form players, with the name Hacjivah Dayimani getting several mentions.

Many expected the loose forward to be included in the list of 43 invitees given his impressive performance for the Stormers. However, he has not made it.

Bulls hooker Akker van der Merwe is another player that has been producing some quality performances. He is second on the URC try-scoring charts with eight tries.

Simphiwe Matanzima and Embrose Papier could also feel a little disappointed for not making the list, while Joseph Dweba, who was a regular squad member over the past four years, has slipped down the pecking order as the Bok management team opted for another option.

World Cup Final hero Deon Fourie is another name that has not made the cut. The 37-year-old has not retired from rugby and while his age does count against him, the utility forward could provide some much-needed mentorship, especially to the new crop of players.

However, while the absentees have left many fans up in arms, one has to keep in mind that alignment camps do not guarantee selection and that players who are not invited are not out of the selection frame.

Teams represented in Bok camp

Bulls – 12: Johan Grobbelaar, Celimpilo Gumede, Cameron Hanekom, Elrigh Louw, Wilco Louw, Ruan Nortje, Gerhard Steenekamp, Marco van Staden, Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Willie le Roux, Canan Moodie

Cheetahs – 1: Marnus van der Merwe

Lions – 6: Ruan Venter, Jordan Hendrikse, Quan Horn, Sanele Nohamba, Morne van den Berg, Henco van Wyk

Stormers – 11: Neethling Fouche, Andre-Hugo Venter, Frans Malherbe, Salmaan Moerat, Evan Roos, Ruben van Heerden, Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, Suleiman Hartzenberg, Herschel Jantjies, Manie Libbok, Damian Willemse

Sharks – 9: Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Koch, Bongi Mbonambi, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Ox Nche, Lukhanyo Am, Jaden Hendrikse, Makazole Mapimpi, Grant Williams

Japan-based players – 4: Malcolm Marx, Kwagga Smith, Faf de Klerk, Jesse Kriel

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