Duhan van der Merwe Scotland Springbok

Duhan van der Merwe launches a scathing attack from deep.

Six Nations Saffas: Would they gain Springbok selection?

Six SA-born players featured in the first two rounds of the Six Nations. We take a look at their performances and if they would make a Springbok team.

Duhan van der Merwe Scotland Springbok

Duhan van der Merwe launches a scathing attack from deep.

Six South African-born players featured in the opening two round of the Six Nations. We take a look at their performances and weigh up whether they would make it into a Springbok team.

ALSO READ: Six Nations give Springboks the cold shoulder

Scotland had four “Saffas” in their match-day squads that toppled England 29-23 at Twickenham to win the Calcutta Cup for a third consecutive time and again in round when they thumped Wales 35-7.

France and Ireland had one “Saffas” each in their playing squads. France survived a big scare as they edged a brave Italy side 29-24 in Rome and Ireland cruised to a commanding 34-10 bonus-point triumph over Wales in Cardiff, both in the first round.

France and Ireland then squared off in the round two, with the Irish coming away with a 32-19 bonus-point over Les Bleus in a quite magnificent game.

To date, Ireland and Scotland are the form teams in the Six Nations; and with both grouped in the same World Cup pool as the Springboks, we look at the South African-born players’ contribution and whether they would gain Springbok selection.


Here’s how the SA-born players fared in the Six Nations: Would they gain Springbok selection?

Duhan van der Merwe (Scotland wing)

Not only was Van der Merwe the standout player from the Scotland vs England clash, he was the standout player from the opening round of fixtures. He scored two brilliant tries, of which his first touchdown was voted Try of the Week and is widely considered as one of the greatest tries ever scored in Test match rugby.

He didn’t score against Wales in round two, but was a constant threat on and off the ball. It could be argued that van der Merwe had an even better overall performance in this Test than in the one against England.

Springbok odds: If there’s one thing the Springboks lack, it’s a big, bulky winger. Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse could step defenders in a phone booth and they do step up to the physical challenges despite their stature. On their part, Makazole Mapimpi and Canan Moodie are much taller and they too get the job done. But would Duhan van der Merwe, in his current form, get into the current Springbok team? I believe so. He just about sneaks into the starting XV and if not, he would at least make the bench.

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Kyle Steyn (Scotland wing)

The Scottish Rugby Union invited the former Griquas captain over under the guise of potentially strengthening their sevens programme. As it turned out, Steyn was so impressive that he was fast-tracked into the 15s set-up and now finds himself as Scotland’s first-choice right wing in Test rugby. He performed admirably against the English, but it was against the Welsh that he flourished, bagging two tries to show he is every bit as lethal as a finisher as van der Merwe.

Springbok odds: While Steyn is excelling for Scotland, it’s difficult to see him breaking into a Springbok squad, let alone a match 23 when he couldn’t even break into one of the big franchises when he was still in South Africa.

Pierre Schoeman (Scotland prop)

Regarded as one of the props in the Six Nations, Schoeman has rarely failed to live up to expectations when donning the blue Scottish jersey in Test rugby. He has started at loosehead prop in their opening two Six Nations and played a pivotal role in helping the team secure back-to-back wins in those games. Apart from his scrummaging, his strong ball-carrying ability and knack for disrupting the breakdown, makes him one of the more versatile front rowers around.

Springbok odds: All that said, is he more versatile and subsequently more impactful than the likes of Ox Nche and Steven Kitshoff? No. And for that, he wouldn’t get into the Springbok team.

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WP Nel (Scotland prop)

He has been a mainstay of Scotland’s front row since quality to play for them in 2015 and kudos to him for his longevity. At the peak of his powers, there might have been a case to made for Nel as a potential Springbok. But Nel is 36-years-old now and is mostly playing off the bench and primarily utilised for his experience at tighthead instead of an all-round the park contribution.

Springbok odds: None.

Rob Herring (Ireland hooker)

Similarly to Nel, Rob Herring has been around for a long time. He made his Test debut in 2014. Unlike Nel, though, Herring is only 32 years old. A stalwart in the Irish team, Herring featured off the bench against Wales, but was called upon as starter to anchor Ireland’s scrum against in the crunch match against France. But unfortunately, Herring’s game was cut short when he was subbed off in the 27th minute due to a head injury.

Springbok odds: Let’s be honest, though, there is not one player from any Test nation in the world is dethroning Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx as Springbok hookers.

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Paul Willemse (France lock)

Paul Willemse has become a towering presence in France’s pack since making his Test debut in February 2019 (three years ago). Of all six South African-born players in the current Six Nations, it could be argued that Willemse was closest to ever step foot on a rugby field as a Springbok than any of his other compatriots. He was a schoolboy sensation and was well on track to being a household name in South African rugby, but injuries curtailed his career at the Bulls and that was the end of it playing days on home soil. Willemse made the move abroad and the rest is history. He recently made his return after another lengthy spell on the sidelines due to injury, starting in both of France’s Six Nations over the past fortnight.

Springbok odds: With Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager and Franco Mostert as chief second rowers, and several others standing queue behind them, there’s no chance Willemse see a Springbok starting lineup. But in a parallel universe, there’s enough evidence to believe he would crack the Springbok bench.

Paul Willemse France Springbok
Paul Willemse in action for France.