With a new coach, retiring players, and new talent knocking on the front door, the Springboks are in for some changes ahead of the three-match Test series against Ireland in June. We’ve picked seven players we think deserve a shot in the green and gold:
It’s hard to argue against the fact that Elton Jantjies has been the in-form flyhalf this Super Rugby season. The 25-year-old has shown great calm, control, and creativity with his playmaking for the Lions – often building up play in a relaxed, directed manner, before pulling a rabbit out of the hat when an opportunity arose. Jantjies has the kicking, passing, defensive, and game management skills that could suit a new expansive Springbok gameplan.
South African Super Rugby franchise wingers haven’t been exceeding expectations this year, but one man that has stood out is Ruan Combrinck. The Lions flyer has been the most effective strike-weapon for the Joburg franchise, racking up more metres and line-breaks than any other winger in the SA conference, and linking up in the midfield when needed. Combrinck has been known to have a quiet game here and there, but when he fires, he’s devastating.
Often falling behind the pecking-order of Siya Kolisi and Nizaam Carr, Sikhumbuzo Notshe has been an underrated find for the Stormers, but when he has got the chance, Notshe has shone every moment he’s on the field. Great in open play and on defence, Notshe is an athletic and intelligent player who knows when to contest at the breakdown and when not to. He isn’t an out-and-out fetcher, but his versatile skills could be greatly used on the international stage.
Akker van der Merwe
The Lions’ super-sub has edged himself into the starting lineup during the course of the season. Akker van der Merwe is a powerful scrummaging hooker, but one who has the skill, speed, and power of a player of someone like the All Blacks’ Dane Coles. If Allister Coetzee is aiming to play a bigger and faster brand of rugby, it needs to begin in the front-row, and Van der Merwe would fit the mould for that approach.
The Springbok centre combination has lacked a bit of impotence since Jaque Fourie retired from international rugby a few seasons back, and a x-factor player is required in the outside centre channel. Lionel Mapoe has been a strong player for the Lions, producing impressive performances week-in and week-out, showing a defensive prowess and an eye for a gap, along with the ability to put wingers and inside players into space. With Damian de Allende with one hand on the No. 12 jersey, it could be a great play to put Mapoe alongside him to create something lethal in the Springbok midfield.
While there are a handful of Lions players on the list, they’re all undeniably justified, but no one comes more assure of a Springbok spot than Jaco Kriel. The ruthless flanker is the all-round package that could attribute the Springboks with a host of skills. Looking at breakdown success, turnovers won, tackles made, and metres gained, Kriel is always at the top of the list almost weekend. His support play is superb too, gifting him a few tries in the season, and it would be a shame to not see him in a green jersey this Test season.
Who do you think should make the Springbok squad to play Ireland? Tweet us @MenStuffZA and let us know your favourite.