Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus

Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus. Photo: SA Rugby website

Springbok ‘bolter’ set for unexpected start

The Springboks are soon set to unveil their first Test squad of the year, with a talented outside back set to receive an unexpected debut.

Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus

Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus. Photo: SA Rugby website

When Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus recently named a squad of 35 players for the team’s first official training camp, there were only two players who hadn’t been included in previous planning sessions.

Ethan Hooker and Edwill Van der Merwe cracked the nod for the new-look squad, but their inclusions were somewhat surprising considering that the duo had not participated in either of the Springbok alignment sessions in March and May respectively, nor the virtual alignment camp hosted early in May.

It’s now believed that Van der Merwe has impressed to such an extent during the recent training camp that he will be backed to start against Wales this Saturday.

The Springboks’ team for this season-opener will be named on Tuesday, and the 28-year-old looks well placed to receive his debut on the right wing in the absence of unavailable Cheslin Kolbe.

Long journey to Springbok honours for the flying wing

Van der Merwe, a product of Paul Roos Gymnasium, started out his career at the Stormers and Western Province, where the winger showed glimpses of his potential.

However, it was his move to the Lions in 2021 that set his career on a different trajectory as he became a mainstay of the team. Despite his relatively diminutive physical frame, he has proven himself to be a powerful finisher, with his low centre of gravity and stocky build often making him an unstoppable force close to the tryline.

Van der Merwe will add further depth to the Springboks’ options out wide, and it will now be interesting to see how he transitions to the Test arena at this stage of his career.

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Van der Merwe is one of 11 uncapped players currently being considered for selection ,namely: Jordan Hendrikse (the brother of Jaden Hendrikse), Quan Horn, Morne van den Berg (all Lions players), Phepsi Buthelezi, Siya Masuku (from the Sharks), Ben-Jason Dixon, Sacha Feinberg-Mgomezulu, Neethling Fouche and Andre-Hugo Venter (Stormers).

SPRINGBOK SQUAD (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER):

Forwards: Phepsi Buthelezi (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Joseph Dweba, Ben-Jason Dixon (both DHL Stormers), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz), Eben Etzebeth (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Neethling Fouche (DHL Stormers), Vincent Koch (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears), Bongi Mbonambi (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Ntuthuko Mchunu (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Salmaan Moerat (DHL Stormers), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat), Ox Nche (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Evan Roos (DHL Stormers), Kwagga Smith (Blu Revs), Andre-Hugo Venter (DHL Stormers), Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers).

Backs: Damian de Allende (Panasonic Wild Knights), Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles), Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins), Aphelele Fassi (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Jordan Hendrikse (Emirates Lions), Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (DHL Stormers), Ethan Hooker (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Quan Horn (Emirates Lions), Cheslin Kolbe (Suntory Sungoliath) Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles), Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers), Makazole Mapimpi, Siya Masuku (both Hollywoodbets Sharks), Handre Pollard (Leicester Tigers), Morne van den Berg (Emirates Lions), Edwill van der Merwe (Emirates Lions), Grant Williams (Hollywoodbets Sharks).