Rugby World Cup: Picking a form Springboks XV from this season
As the club season draws to a close and the international games and Rugby World Cup are fast approaching, Planet Rugby picks the form XVs from each country. First up, the Springboks.
15 Kurt-Lee Arendse: The exciting Bulls full-back has been in outstanding nick in recent United Rugby Championship (URC) matches for the Pretoria-based side. In his 11 games in the URC he has scored seven tries, assisted four and has been a game-breaker for Jake White’s side. He edges Damian Willemse for the role; the Stormers‘ back has been solid for the Cape-based side but has also shifted between the full-back and centre role. Meanwhile, Willie le Roux spent most of the Japan Rugby League One (JRLO) season playing at fly-half for Toyota Verblitz. Lastly, Cheslin Kolbe has been playing in the 15 jersey for Toulon but has been struggling with injuries and only recently returned to full fitness.
14 Canan Moodie: As mentioned above, Kolbe has been sidelined for large chunks of Toulon’s season, while Moodie has been sublime for the Bulls. Even when the Bulls endured a dip in results, the youngster was still one of the standouts. Werner Kok has also shone for the Sharks, but Moodie has been a step up.
Tried and tested
13 Lukhanyo Am: Simply had to be him despite the excellence of Ruhan Nel and Dan du Plessis this season. Jesse Kriel has been superb for Canon Eagles in Japan, but even considering that Am still holds onto the jersey. The Sharks have underdelivered on their promise this season, but the blame for that has little to do with the world-class centre. He constantly produces moments of magic with ball in hand and is as astute as ever in defence.
12 Damian de Allende: The hulking centre had a stronghold on the number 12 jersey over the last six years and is set to continue to do so in 2023. The likes of Marius Louw, Harold Vorster, Du Plessis and Willemse have certainly put their hands up for this position with their domestic for, while Andre Esterhuizen is still one of the finest inside centres in the Premiership. But even on form, De Allende is crushing it. He ranked third among metres gained, and passes by centres in the JRLO, second in contact metres, defenders beaten and gain line carries, while he has also won more turnovers than any other centre. Some will point to the quality of the league, but there is no doubt of De Allende’s quality as a player.
11 Makazole Mapimpi: There is a persistent rhetoric that Mapimpi is struggling with form and losing ground on the likes of Kolbe, Moodie and Arendse, but it couldn’t be further from the truth at the moment. The veteran flyer has been a standout for the Sharks in the Champions Cup and URC and started regularly for the Springboks through 2022. The other wingers are pressing him for his place, but the number 11 jersey is still securely his for the time being.
10 Handre Pollard: A potential captain following the injury to Siya Kolisi, Pollard has returned from his spell on the sidelines in inspirational form. He helped Leicester Tigers secure a place in the Premiership play-offs and looks to be hitting some of the best form of his career. Manie Libbok was the form fly-half last season and has endured a bit of a dip this campaign but is still in the running. Le Roux is undoubtedly an option as a first receiver but surely not as an out-and-out fly-half for the Test team. Finally, Elton Jantjies has been solid for Agen in the French second division.
9 Faf de Klerk: Jacques Nienaber is not short on options at scrum-half, with bolters Grant Williams, Embrose Papier and Sanele Nohamba shining locally, while Cobus Reinach has been brilliantly consistent for Montpellier. Jaden Hendrikse’s injury, however, means that De Klerk takes the jersey. He is another player who has lived up to his billing in Japan, leading the competition in try assists (15) and had more kicks retained than any other scrum-half in the JRLO.
Kolisi-less loose trio
8 Jasper Wiese: Simply put, when he is starting for Leicester Tigers, they are a better team. The hulking number eight is just brilliant with ball in and without it. He looks to have shaken off most of his disciplinary issues and is becoming a seriously well-rounded international number eight. Meanwhile, Duane Vermeulen is still producing top-drawer performances as Ulster finished the regular season in second place. Locally, Evan Roos has just returned from injury, while Elrigh Louw is a consistent performer for the Bulls. Finally, the form of Sikhumbuzo Notshe cannot be ignored.
7 Pieter-Steph du Toit: Another Springbok that has been a standout in Japan as Du Toit looks to be returning to the form that earned him the World Rugby Player of the Year award in 2019. A highlight of his game has always been his tireless work-rate, and even in the fast-paced JRLO, he has topped the charts. Louw has emerged as a contender for the number eight and blindside role. Utility back-rower Hacjivah Dayimani brilliantly filled in for Roos for the Stormers but starts on the side of the scrum more often and could press a chance in the seven jersey.
6 Kwagga Smith: The South Africans really have really taken the JRLO by storm this year, but none as much as Blue Revs captain Smith. He has been packing down at number for the side, but he is one of the frontrunners to fill Kolisi’s void. The 29-year-old won more turnovers (25) than any other player and ranked amongst the top 10 for tackles, tries, carries, metres, contact metres, defenders beaten, and dominant tackles amongst forwards, further proving his all-round brilliance. Marcell Coetzee also had a fine stint in Japan, but locally, Deon Fourie and Marco van Staden are ahead of him in the pecking order.
5 Lood de Jager: Historically, the Springboks have plenty of depth in the second-row, but at the moment, several stars are sidelined or have just returned from injury. However, De Jager has been a driving force in the Panasonic Wild Knight’s run into the JRLO play-offs. Franco Mostert has played in the Japanese second division, while RG Snyman is starting to get back to his best. Nico Janse van Rensburg earned a Test debut in 2021 and might be back on the Boks’ radar again with his starry form for Montpellier.
4 Marvin Orie: A player more suitable option for the loosehead lock position. However, the Stormers man’s performances this campaign have often been undervalued. He has a number of locking partners succumbing to injuries but has soldiered on and done so to great aplomb. Eben Etzebeth’s injury occurred when he played some outstanding rugby, and the coaching staff hope he returns from injury in the same nick. Ruan Nortje continues to be a crucial member of the Bulls pack.
3 Frans Malherbe: The Stormers prop continues to be an anchor in any scrum he packs down in and is a clear favourite for the starting role. Meanwhile, Vincent Koch has been solid for Stade Francais in the Top 14. The Sharks scrum has been a tough nut to crack this season, and a lot of that is due to their brilliant tighthead Thomas du Toit. In short, the Springboks aren’t short on tightheads, with Trevor Nyakane and Carlu Sadie in the mix too.
2 Malcolm Marx: The final addition from the JRLO, Marx was up to his old tricks in Japan, winning the fifth most turnovers (16) and scored 10 tries in 14 matches. Locally, Bongi Mbonambi has been solid for the Sharks, while Johan Grobbelaar continues to put his hand up for selection.
1 Steven Kitshoff: Both sides of the Springbok front-row is well stocked, but there are two clear favourites in Kitshoff and Ox Nche. While the pair have both been superb for their respective sides, Stormers’ skipper Kitshoff has the edge. He is looking to close off his second stint with the Cape Town-based side with another trophy, and his form reflects it.
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