Blood the new in 2022. There is plenty of time to refresh, rejuvenate and reinvigorate the Springboks for their 2023 World Cup defence, writes Mark Keohane.
There is nothing wrong with staying with the veterans for the three November Tests up north. Just manage their game time.
The injection of youth will come in 2022 and 2023, with 20 Test matches to be played in the 20 month period before the 2023 World Cup in France.
The three-Test schedule in November, as opposed to a four or five Test itinerary, meant that there was always going to be a smaller touring group, such as the 32 players confirmed by Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber.
Nienaber has worked extensively with a core group of 45 players all year and he was not going to use the next month as a introduction month to the culture of these Boks. Any newbie was going to be injury enforced, which is the case with uncapped call-ups Salmaan Moerat and Grant Williams.
Both have been on the Bok coaching radar for some time, with Moerat always destined for selection, given his pedigree as the former SA Schools and SA under 20 captain. Williams was also a member of the extended Bok squad in Australia.
I thought that Nienaber may give a few veterans some time off in November, most notably fullback Willie le Roux, who looked fatigued and out of sorts at the end of the Rugby Championships.
Nienaber obviously feels there is more value having Le Roux on tour, even if his game time is managed more selectively, and this is a tour in which I want to see the exciting skill set of Aphelele Fassi at fullback, more so than on the wing.
Should there be injuries, Nienaber also has the luxury of drafting in numerous players who are based in the United Kingdom, in particular the likes of Wilco Louw and Andre Esterhuizen, two experienced campaigners making a big impact at Harlequins.
The Sale-based Du Preez brothers remain strong contenders in the event of injury to the back five of the forwards pack and there is cover overseas in every position.
My hope is that Nienaber uses the three Tests to play the entire group of players and shows faith and trust in their ability.
I want to see Herschel Jantjies and Elton Jantjies start some of the Tests as the halfback pairing. I want to see Fassi at fullback. I want to see Jantjies at 10, with Pollard at 12, so that Damian de Allende’s workload can be managed. Equally, some game time for Jesse Kriel.
It is also critical for the evolution of Marvin Orie and Moerat that they get to show their worth in the Test matches and aren’t on tour as travelling ambassadors.
Rassie Erasmus, when he took over as Bok coach in 2018, prepared a team to win the World Cup within a two year period.
Nienaber, with the aid of Erasmus as National Director of Rugby, can achieve a similar squad build towards the 2023 World Cup in France.
There is plenty of time and more than enough Test matches before the Boks arrive in France for their World Cup defence.
The smaller group of Boks also allows for fringe players to be reintroduced to their United Rugby Championship regions earlier and for those who tour to also be introduced sooner rather than later as South Africa looks to ramp up its four-team challenge from the end of November.
I’d have liked to have seen Bulls loose-forward Elrigh Louw and Stormers No 8 Evan Roos in the mix but only if the intention was to rest a Franco Mostert and Duane Vermeulen.
When Nienaber leaned towards the experienced duo, there was no space in the current mix for these two enormously talented loose-forwards.
There isn’t a heck of a lot to debate in terms of the squad picked, but the big discussions that will play out over the next month is how the starting XVs and match-day 23s are managed.
🇿🇦 Two uncapped players in 32-man Springbok squad for UK tour
✅ Wales, Scotland and England await Boks in November
🗣️ “We’ve decided to stick with the core of our 2021 squad”
🔗 Squad announcement: https://t.co/m9kng256lf#StrongerTogether #StrongerForever pic.twitter.com/qYeBvEs3x7
— Springboks (@Springboks) October 19, 2021
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