The big Bok headache
OPINION: Five rounds into the Super Rugby season and new Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has a few intriguing puzzles to solve.
Injuries and retirements are at the heart of his biggest conundrum.
While only three players from last year’s successful World Cup squad has formally retired from Test rugby, once you add the current injury list you quickly realise the magnitude of his predicament.
It is at hooker where he faces a challenge.
Schalk Brits retired and Mbongeni Mbonambi is injured.
Malcolm Marx is on a sabbatical with the Shining Arcs in Japan.
He will be back for the international season in July, but it still means no frontline hooker is on display in Super Rugby – normally the yardstick for a Bok coach.
Kerron van Vuuren, Craig Burden, Jan-Henning Campher, Pieter Jansen, Jaco Visagie, Corniel Els, Siyabonga Ntubeni and Chad Solomon are not normally the names you look towards to fill that vacancy in the middle of the Bok front row.
Joseph Dweba, the 24-year-old that was born in Carletonville and schooled in Florida (on Johannesburg’s West Rand) may well be rewarded for his impressive Pro14 form with a Bok call-up.
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Loose forward is less of a problem – given the profusion of quality back row players on display.
The retirement of Francois Louw has certainly cost the Boks a bucketload of experience.
The injuries to Bok captain Siyamthanda Kolisi and World Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit are a concern.
However, both are expected to be back on the pitch come July – albeit short of a few gallops.
In-form back-ups are plentiful – James Venter, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Juarno Augustus and Jaco Coetzee.
You also have Albertus Smith and Duane Vermeulen to come back into the frame once the Japan season concludes in May.
Notshe, 26, played the last of his six Tests against New Zealand in October 2018.
His move from Cape Town to Durban seems to have revived his career.
Mtawarira’s retirement is covered by 24-year-old one-time Bok Retshegofaditswe Nche – who moved from the Cheetahs to the Sharks.
For the rest, you can bank on the bulk of the World Cup squad – with the odd bolter.
Two of those ‘newcomers’ may well be from the Cheetahs – Joseph Dweba at hooker and utility forward Sintu Manjezi.
Lions lock Marvin Orie, 27, may not be everybody’s cup of tea – and his form is not the greatest – but he has been on the fringes of the squad for the last two years and it will not be a major surprise if he is at least part of the wider training squad.
So what does the Springbok picture look like?
Retired: Francois Louw, Schalk Brits, Tendai Mtawarira.
Injured: Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph Du Toit, Mbongeni Mbonambi.
Playing abroad: Albertus Smith, Duane Vermeulen, Frans Steyn, Damian de Allende, Handre Pollard, Cheslin Kolbe, Willie Le Roux, Malcolm Marx, Lodewyk de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Rudolph Snyman, Vincent Koch, Cobus Reinach, Francois de Klerk, Jessie Kriel.
Bok probables: Siyamthanda Kolisi, Pieter-Steph Du Toit, Albertus Smith, Duane Vermeulen, Lukhanyo Am, Frans Steyn, Damian de Allende, Elton Jantjies, Handre Pollard, Warrick Gelant, Cheslin Kolbe, Willie Le Roux, Damian Willemse, Malcolm Marx, Lodewyk de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Rudolph Snyman, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Frans Malherbe, Thomas du Toit, Herschel Jantjies, Cobus Reinach, Francois de Klerk, Makazole Mapimpi, Sibusiso Nkosi, Jessie Kriel, Trevor Nyakane.
Possible additions & fringe players: Joseph Dweba, Sintu Manjezi, Marvin Orie, Retshegofaditswe Nche, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Aphelele Fassi, Kerron van Vuuren, Rynhardt Elstadt, Lizo Gqoboka, Marcell Coetzee.