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Springbok XV: The discards

Playing selector is always fun. More so when your team doesn’t have to play!


This past weekend Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber and Director of Rugby Johan Erasmus showed their Rugby Championship hand – naming a training squad.

I decided to sit down and look at players who missed the initial cut and selected a team of ‘discards’.

It includes players from around the globe and players who may well be on the fringes without getting recognition.

It would be an interesting team to play against the Springboks in a World Cup warm-up match.

The @king365ed XV

15 – Rhyno Christo Smith (Benetton)

At 30 the Paarl-born and schooled player may not be a long-term option for the future, but as a back-up at the World Cup he is not a bad option. Having first made his mark at the Leopards, after studying at the North-West University, he had spells with the Sharks and Cheetahs, before moving to Benetton. As a player who often features at fullback, sometimes at flyhalf and regularly on the wing, he gives you that added ‘utility’ value.

Worth a second glance: Dillyn Leyds, Devon Williams, Aphelele Fassi, Clayton Blommetjies, Andries Coetzee, Quan Horn, Cohen Jasper, Rosko Specman.


14 – Edwill Charl van der Merwe (Lions)

Another product of the Western Cape which has been performing consistently for many years, without getting due recognition. The Baby Bok moved rom Cape Town (Stormers) to Johannesburg (Lions) in 2021 and has been a very productive mainstay in their URC and Currie Cup teams.

Worth a second glance: Stravino Jacobs, Yaw Penxe, Seabelo Senatla, Suleiman Hartzenberg, Angelo Davids, Tapiwa Mafura.

13 – Jan Lodewyk Serfontein (Montpellier)


The now 30-year-old first made his mark as a schoolboy at Grey High (Port Elizabeth) and then Grey College (Bloemfontein). Made his Bulls Super Rugby debut as a 20-year-old in 2013 and featured in 35 Tests for the Springboks – including playing off the bench at the 2015 World Cup. In 2017 he finished up in Pretoria, moved to Montpellier where he has just ended his sixth season. Was a Top 14 champion in 2022.

Worth a second glance: Ruhan Nel, Rynhardt Jonker, David Brits, Sango Xamlashe, Diego Appollis, Francois Venter.

12 – Rohan Janse van Rensburg (Sharks)

After playing for the Bulls as a 19-year-old, he moved to the Lions – where he became a Springbok. Moved to Sale Sharks in 2018 and played 90-odd games for the Premiership outfit, before returning to South Africa and joining the Sharks.

Worth a second glance: Harold Vorster, Dan du Plessis, Reinhardt Fortuin, Marius Louw, Zander du Plessis, Ali Mgijima.

11 – Raymond Kofi Rhule (Stade Rochelais)

Born in Accra, Ghana, and schooled at Louis Botha Technical High School in Bloemfontein, he did not follow the traditional rugby route in South Africa. When he made his Springbok debut in 2017, he was heavily criticised for his defensive frailties. However, since he moved to France – first Grenoble and then La Rochelle – he became a far more rounded player.

Worth a second glance: Gerhard van den Heever, Werner Kok, Kobus van Wyk, Boldwin Hansen, Luther Obi, Leolin Zas.

10 – Robert James du Preez (Sale Sharks)

His only appearance for the Springboks was a 10-minute cameo at the end of a losing cause against Wales in Washington in 2018. A charged-down kick is what he will be remembered for, unless he gets another shot. Has showed enough BMT in the Premiership and Europe to warrant another shot.

Worth a second glance: Jean-Luc du Plessis, Curwin Bosch, Johan Goosen, Lionel Cronjé, Chris Smith, Siyabonga Masuku, Lubabalo Dobela, Tinus de Beer.

9 – Sanele Nohamba (Lions)

Having represented South Africa Schools ‘A’ in 2016, South Africa Schools in 2017 and South Africa Under-20 at the 2019 World Rugby Under-20 Championship – where he scored 33 points through two tries, seven conversions and three penalties – he was on the Springbok fringes in the post-COVID era. His ability to function equally well at flyhalf and scrumhalf makes him an ideal utility off the bench.

Worth a second glance: Keagan Johannes, Embrose Papier, Morné van den Berg, Dewaldt Duvenage, Rewan Kruger, Johan Mulder.

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8 – Ruan Ackermann (Gloucester)

When he first made his debut for a Lions team coached by his father Johan in 2015, there were murmurs of nepotism, which he soon silenced with his on-field performances. He played two games for South Africa ‘A’ in 2017, before moving to Gloucester. Since joining the Cherry and Whites, Ackermann has impressed through his physicality and work rate in each season since coming to Kingsholm and often tops the stats for the most carries in a game. Qualified to play for England through residency, he has often featured in discussions about the England squad, but has not yet been capped.

Worth a second glance: Wiaan Liebenberg, Dan du Preez, Elrigh Louw, Francke Horn, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Hacjivah Dayimani.

7 – Gideon Johann van der Merwe (Cheetahs)

After spells in the ‘minor leagues’ with the Leopards and Griquas, he was scooped up by the Cheetahs in 2021 and has been a mainstay. More an openside, but also a strong ball carrier. With him and Marcell Coetzee in my team I have two flanks who can play to the ball and be additional carriers.

Worth a second glance: Ruan Venter, Cyle Brink, Junior Pokomela, Rynhardt Elstadt, Hanru Sirgel, Francois Kleinhans.

6 – Marcell Cornelius Coetzee (Bulls – captain)

With a proven international track record (31 Tests) and his leadership ability, he will captain my team. He just doesn’t seem to fit into the Springbok picture at the moment. It can’t be his age, 32, as Duane Vermeulen is 36. It has to be the combination they prefer. He is also a line-out option.

Worth a second glance: Johannes Pretorius, Chris Cloete, James Venter, Willie Engelbrecht, Thabo Ndimande.

5 – Ruan Nortjé (Bulls)

At 24 he has a lot of growing to do and maybe he does need a bit more body. His work rate could also improve, but he has oodles of talent.

Worth a second glance: Victor Sekekete, Reniel Hugo, Shane Kirkwood, Gerbrandt Grobler.

4 – Ben-Jason Dixon (Stormers)

This year, 2023, can truly be defined as his break-out season. Although he is equally comfortable at lock and flank, I want his physicality and workrate for my front (No.4) lock position.

Worth a second glance: Ruben Schoeman, Jason Jenkins, Wikus Nieuwenhuis, Ruben van Heerden.

3 – Johann Neethling Fouché (Stormers)

Playing behind Springbok Frans Malherbe he made the most of his chances in the URC and was a regular starter – and even captain in the latter stage – in the Currie Cup. Strong scrummager with a high work rate.

Worth a second glance: Ruan Dreyer, Wilco Louw, Coenraad Oosthuizen, Conraad van Vuuren, Jean-Pierre Smith, Carlü Sadie.

2 – Armand van der Merwe (Sale Sharks)

The 31-year-old has not featured in the national team since his three appearances in 2018, but the Angry Warthog has continued producing the raw power and determination for Sale Sharks that first saw him burst onto the scene in 2014 as a surprise addition to the Lions squad.

Worth a second glance: Johan Grobbelaar, Hendrik van Schoor, Louis van der Westhuizen, Fezokuhle Mbatha.

1 – Schalk Jakobus Petrus Ferreira (Cheetahs)

Look beyond his age, 39. If you’ve watched enough of the Cheetahs’ games this season you would have seen him go toe-to-toe with many players more than 10 years his junior and winning the battles. His work rate is not to be scoffed at either. One word describes him perfectly: ‘Longevity’

Worth a second look: Lizo Pumzile Gqoboka, Corne Fourie, Gerhard Steenekamp, Ruan Smith.


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