Springboks Masuku Williams Sharks SA rugby

The Sharks celebrate winning the Challenge Cup. Photo: SA Rugby website

Opinion: Masuku, Williams must start for Springboks

The Sharks’ halfback duo of Grant Williams and Siya Masuku should be backed to start in the Springboks’ season-opener against Wales.

Springboks Masuku Williams Sharks SA rugby

The Sharks celebrate winning the Challenge Cup. Photo: SA Rugby website

On Friday, the Sharks clinched a historic victory in the Challenge Cup final, and with less than a month to go until the Springboks’ first Test of the year, there is no doubt that Grant Williams and Siya Masuku made a massive statement.

Masuku has consistently been the most impressive domestic flyhalf for the last few weeks, with his goal-kicking, calm temperament and clever game play contributing to a host of Man of the Match awards.

The season-opening Springbok Test against Wales on 22 June falls outside the international window, and so overseas-based players such as flyhalf Handre Pollard won’t be available. The Springbok coaches could of course turn to Manie Libbok – if he isn’t involved in the URC final that is – but they already know what they have in the Stormers star.

The game against Wales is all about testing out some ‘newcomers’, and it presents the perfect opportunity for in-form Masuku to make his Springbok debut.

Similarly, in terms of combinations, it makes perfect sense to allow him to start alongside Sharks halfback partner Williams.

With Faf de Klerk and Jaden Hendrikse sidelined with injuries, the clash against Wales should also allow for Williams to feature in his preferred position at scrumhalf.

The 27-year-old, who mainly played on the wing during last year’s World Cup, was one of the standout performers in the Challenge Cup final and it should be enough to secure him the Springbok No 9 jersey for at least the first Test of the year.

Masuku and Williams will hope to feature regularly for the Springboks in 2024

The Springboks will gather in Pretoria on Sunday 9 June to begin their on-field preparations for the season, with the Test squad for the Wales match set to be named on Saturday 8 June.

A group of 38 players recently attended a second alignment camp of the year, although Sharks players weren’t included due to their involvement in the Challenge Cup title decider.

Big season ahead

Coach Rassie Erasmus commented: “It was great to see the enthusiasm among the players and witness first-hand how they soaked in everything in as they attempt to stake a claim for places in the national team, and we believe this will set us in good stead as a squad for the upcoming season.

“As a coaching team this camp allowed us to get a better understanding of the players and their skills to give them enough detail to work on in the next few weeks before we gather for the first official training camp which will be hosted in June.”