As the Springboks prepare to take on the challenges that await in their Rugby Championship campaign, the questions around the selections that took place will likely creep in. We have faith in the boys in green, but stepping back, it’s also good to take account and highlight some players that missed out on selection and deserve a shot in the upcoming tournament.
Rohan Janse van Rensburg
Instead of: Damian de Allende
The Lions’ colossal centre has been the standout midfield player in South Africa for the past two seasons. His size, speed, and game-reading is a notch above other players at the moment, and every time he takes the ball into contact, he always gets over the advantage-line or breaks a tackle. Granted, he endured a knee injury earlier in the season but the 22-year-old has made a remarkable recovery and is playing excellently for the Lions in the Currie Cup. His injury alone should not qualify his exclusion, as Damian de Allende, who was absent for a majority of the Super Rugby season with injury, made a surprising and questionable appearance in the Springbok squad list.
Instead of: Raymond Rhule
As the Southern Kings managed to capture the hearts of rugby fans with their spirited and exciting style this past Super Rugby season, one man was often on the end of the try-scoring action: Makazole Mapimpi. The speedster has emerged as a quick and skillful winger who has a great ability to finish, and while one great season shouldn’t immediately warrant a Bok call-up, he’s been one (if not the) best South African winger in Super Rugby this year. Taking Mapimpi to the Rugby Championships over Raymond Rhule would’ve instilled some faith in the 27-year-old. And while Ruan Combrink is an option too, he did look a little off the pace in the Super Rugby final, and perhaps some more time to get up to speed is best for the Lions winger in order to see him in a green jersey again later this year.
Instead of: Steven Kitshoff
The Cheetahs front-rower has showcased great scrumming abilities in recent seasons, along with an impressive ball-carrying component to his game. Nché is the new-age prop that the Springboks need: strong, mobile, and skillful; and seeing the exciting 22-year-old linking up with the likes of Malcolm Marx would be a great combination to spectate.
Instead of: Uzair Cassiem
Despite his red card in the Super Rugby final, Kwagga Smith has had absolutely no blemishes on his career so far. The former SA Sevens star has made a brilliant transition to the 15-man game and his been a pivotal part of the Lions’ success this season. Smith is a brutal defender, excellent with turnovers, and is arguably faster than most backline players in any team. His ability to go a full 80 minutes at such a high work-rate would’ve been a great addition to the Springboks for the Rugby Championship tournament.
Instead of: Handre Pollard
While this may come slightly premature, there are other inclusions in the Springbok squad that raise far more questions than selecting Willemse to represent internationally. He is still inexperienced, but the 19-year-old has played with the Springbok U20s, shone at Super Rugby level with a few games for the Stormers in the latter part of the season, and is in great form in Currie Cup (his solo try as an example of what he can do). Before the recent U20 World Cup, everyone earmarked Curwin Bosch to be the star of the show, but Willemse (playing at centre) emerged as South Africa’s best backline talent. While Bosch is promising, to include him (and Pollard, who has barely touched a rugby ball this season) and exclude Willemse in the Bok squad is somewhat of a head-scratcher.
Who do you think deserves a shot in the green and gold? Let us know in comments section below and shoot us a tweet @MenStuffZA!
And if you want to back your Rugby Championship calls, you can make your predictions on the upcoming matches here.