SA Rugby Bok ‘trials’ ahead of Rugby Championship, Australia: David O’Sullivan

There was a time when a Springbok squad was selected ahead of a tour by playing trial matches, usually spread over a couple of days. The teams would be called the Possibles and the Probables, and the coach and selector would mix-and-match before deciding on the final squad. These days the Bok coach has plenty of opportunity to see his prospective Boks in action in Super Rugby, Pro14 in Europe, Top 14 in France, Japan’s Top League or Premiership rugby in England. But the crippling effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent lack of competitive rugby for the home-based South African players means the trial system will be used once again. Given that the new Bok coach Jacques Nienaber takes charge of the Gold squad, we can presume this is the team of probables, while assistant coach Mzwandile Stick’s Green squad is the possibles. A Bok team will be selected to play in the delayed Rugby Championship in Australia starting on November 7th, and the Super Rugby franchises are already playing contact training matches. There certainly won’t be enough time to get the top players back to full match fitness to ensure they are genuinely ready for matches against Australia, New Zealand and Argentina. A number of key players in Europe are injured – RG Snyman, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth and Handre Pollard. There is no guarantee that SA Rugby will even send a team to Australia to take part in a competition South Africa has no chance of winning. However, this is a chance for Nienaber to blood youngsters with a firm eye on next year’s visit by the British and Irish Lions. – David O’Sullivan

Statement: SA Rugby – draft squad: Castle Lager Springbok Showdown

Thirty-two capped Springboks – 13 of whom were part of the Rugby World Cup-winning squad in Japan a year ago – a number of Blitzboks and recent Junior Boks are among a roster of 93 players in the draft squad for the historic Castle Lager Springbok Showdown in Cape Town on Saturday 3 October.

Fifty of these players will end up in the two squads – Green and Gold – for the momentous match scheduled for DHL Newlands in two weeks’ time.

The Green team will be coached by Mzwandile Stick, with Rassie Erasmus as team commissioner, while Deon Davids and Jacques Nienaber will be in charge of the Gold squad.

The players, all of whom are based in South Africa, will be drafted into two squads of 25 each by the respective team commissioners and coaches, with equal representation amongst all positions.

Furthermore, each squad will be augmented by seven rookies, all of whom will return to their provinces the day before the match if they are not required to step into either squad as replacements.

The draft picks will take place live on SuperSport on Friday 25 September, and the squads will gather in Cape Town on Sunday 27 September.

“We’ve cast the net very wide for this match, which is a very exciting prospect – as Springbok coaches, we can’t wait to start working with the players,” said Erasmus.

“To make this a meaningful exercise, the match-day squads will be only 25 players, but we’ve decided to increase each squad with the seven young guns for a number of reasons.

“Firstly, we have to make provision should squad members pick up injuries or become ill and have to be replaced, in line with Covid-19 regulations.

“This match also provides us with a great opportunity for our younger players to rub shoulders with more experienced Springboks, especially since many of them missed out on Junior Springbok representation this year.”

Erasmus explained that the squad of 93 players were identified during Vodacom Super Rugby and the Guinness PRO14 earlier in the year, and last year’s Currie Cup, and that the younger players on the list have been part of SA Rugby’s Elite Player Development (EPD) programme in the last couple of years.

A total of 32 players featured for the Junior Springboks between 2016 and 2019, which Erasmus was particularly pleased about.

“Even if they don’t make the final squads, it shows that our pathway from junior to senior level – as part of the EPD programme – works very well and it was especially exciting to see many of these players getting opportunities at franchise level in the last two seasons,” said Erasmus.

A number of players who are currently injured were not considered for the match, including World Rugby and SA Rugby Player of the Year, Pieter-Steph du Toit, as well as RWC-winner Sbu Nkosi and Aphelele Fassi, both of whom were in good form for the Cell C Sharks earlier in the year.

Erasmus added: “This draft list is very dynamic and we’re working closely with the unions to determine players’ availability, so it’s not impossible that the names can still change before Friday, when we do the actual picks.”

SA Rugby: Castle Lager Springbok Showdown draft squad:

Props: Frans Malherbe*, Thomas du Toit*, Steven Kitshoff*, Trevor Nyakane*, Lizo Gqoboka^, Ox Nche^, Marcel van der Merwe^, Ruan Dreyer^, Dylan Smith, Carlu Sadie, Gerhard Steenekamp, Luan de Bruin, Sti Sithole, Nathan McBeth, Mzamo Majola, Johannes Jonker, John-Hubert Meyer.

Hookers: Bongi Mbonambi*, Scarra Ntubeni^, Dylan Richardson, Johan Grobbelaar, Schalk Erasmus, Fez Mbatha, Dan Jooste.

Locks: Jason Jenkins^, Marvin Orie^, Oupa Mohoje^, JD Schickerling, Emile van Heerden, Le Roux Roets, Hyron Andrews, Ruben van Heerden, Salmaan Moerat, Sintu Manjezi, Walt Steenkamp, Reinhard Nothnagel, Ruan Vermaak, Ruben Schoeman.

Looseforwards: Siya Kolisi*, Duane Vermeulen*, Sikhumbuzo Notshe^, Arno Botha^, Marco van Staden^, Nizaam Carr^, Jaco Kriel^, Ernst van Rhyn, Celimpilo Gumede, Jaco Coetzee, James Venter, Junior Pokomela, Phepsi Buthelezi, Thembelani Bholi, Vincent Tshituka, Elrigh Louw, Jeandré Rudolph, Juarno Augustus, Muller Uys, Len Massyn.

Scrumhalves: Herschel Jantjies*, Embrose Papier^, Ivan van Zyl^, Jaden Hendrikse, Sanele Nohamba.

Flyhalves: Elton Jantjies*, Damian Willemse*, Curwin Bosch^, George Whitehead, Kade Wolhuter, Manie Libbok.

Centres: Frans Steyn*, Lukhanyo Am*, Burger Odendaal, Jeremy Ward, Clinton Swart, Manuel Rass, Marius Louw, Rikus Pretorius, Wandisile Simelane, Werner Kok, Dan du Plessis, Ruhan Nel.

Outside backs: Warrick Gelant*, Travis Ismaiel^, Cornal Hendricks^, Courtnall Skosan^, Rabz Maxwane, Rosko Specman, Seabelo Senatla, Sergeal Petersen, Yaw Penxe, David Kriel, Gianni Lombard, Malcolm Jaer.

* denotes Springbok RWC squad members

^ denotes capped Springbok Test players

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