Springboks Rassie Erasmus World Cup Springbok coach SA Rugby All Blacks

Rassie Erasmus during a Springbok training session. Image: AFP

Three positions where the Springboks MUST build depth

As the Springboks edge ever closer to the 2024 Test season, we take a look at three positions where they need to discover some new talent.

Springboks Rassie Erasmus World Cup Springbok coach SA Rugby All Blacks

Rassie Erasmus during a Springbok training session. Image: AFP

The Springboks will soon begin the new Test season with a clash against Wales on 22 June. An experimental side is set to be selected for this season-opener, while the first-choice squad will then head into action against Ireland in July.

When taking a look at the latest extended squad selected by coach Rassie Erasmus, it’s clear that there is no shortage of talent, but it will be crucial for the coaches to particularly expand depth in a few key positions at the start of a new World Cup cycle.

Three key positions for the Springboks to build depth

Hooker

The Springboks have two world-class hookers in Bongi Mbonambi and Malcom Marx, but they are 33 and 29 years old respectively.

As we saw at the last World Cup when Marx was injured, the Springboks had to turn to veteran utility forward Deon Fourie to serve as the back-up hooker despite the fact he wasn’t a specialist in this position.

There is no doubt that this is a key area where the national coaches need to build depth, with the likes of Joseph Dweba and Andre-Hugo Venter currently in the mix.

No 8

Veteran Duane Vermeulen retired after the last World Cup, and although Jasper Wiese is the natural successor, he will miss the first few Tests of the year due to suspension.

As a result, the Springboks will almost immediately need to begin looking at other options, and it would defy this purpose if the coaches opted to ask Kwagga Smith to fill in at No 8 out of position.

The good news is that there are plenty of talented youngsters coming through, from Evan Roos to Phepsi Buthelezi to Celimpilo Gumede.

Flyhalf

The lack of depth in this crucial position was also revealed at the World Cup last year when the Springboks initially only took one special flyhalf to the tournament in France following an injury to Handre Pollard.

The Springboks know what they have in Pollard and Manie Libbok, who could both still play through to the next World Cup, but it’s vitally important that some alternative options are explored.

In this regard, there are at least some exciting possibilities with Jordan Hendrikse, Siya Masuku and even Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu expected to make their Test debuts sooner rather than later.

TRAINING 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), Celimpilo Gumede (Bulls), 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), 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).

2024 FIXTURES:

Saturday, 22 June: SA vs Wales (Twickenham, London)
Saturday, 6 July: SA vs Ireland (Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria)
Saturday, 13 July: SA vs Ireland (Hollywoodbets Kings Park, Durban)
Saturday, 20 July: SA vs Portugal (Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein)

Saturday, 10 August: Australia vs SA (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane)
Saturday, 17 August: Australia vs SA (Optus Stadium, Perth)
Saturday, 31 August: SA vs New Zealand (Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg)
Saturday, 7 September: SA v New Zealand (DHL Stadium, Cape Town)
Saturday, 21 September: Argentina v SA (Estadio Unico Madre de Ciudades, Santiago)
Saturday, 28 September: SA v Argentina (Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit)

Sunday, 10 November: Scotland vs SA (Murrayfield, Edinburgh)
Saturday, 16 November: England vs SA (Twickenham, London)
Saturday, 23 November: Wales vs SA (Principality Stadium, Cardiff)