The strength of a national team is just how many would make a World XV. What makes the Springboks so good is that half the side would make the starting XV of best in the world – and the other half would be in the top three in every position.
I am bullish about the Springboks blitzing the British & Irish Lions three-zip in the Test series, not because the Lions won’t be filled with quality, but more because of the quality of the Springboks.
There is currently so much depth to Bok rugby, in every position bar a like for like replacement when it comes to No 8 Duane Vermeulen and Handre Pollard at No 10. However the playing options in every position have to give every Bok supporter confidence of just how good the world champion Springboks are currently.
I don’t buy into the nonsense and paranoia that the Boks will be underdone for the Test series because they haven’t played an international since the 2019 World Cup final 32-12 slaughter of England. The Boks will be as good as they were in the World Cup play-offs. National Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus, the architect of the 2019 World Cup campaign, and national coach Jacques Nienaber, who has aligned his entire coaching career in support of Erasmus, will ensure the continuity that served them successfully in Japan.
Currently, on pedigree and form, the following Springboks make my World XV: Cheslin Kolbe (right wing), Lukhanyo Amm (13), Damian de Allande (12), Duane Vermeulen (8), Pieter-Steph du Toit (7), Eben Etzebeth (4), Steven Kitshoff (1) and take your pick at hooker, either Bongi Mbonambi or Malcolm Marx.
Of the remaining Boks, Willie le Roux (at fullback), is in the top three of the world, so too winger Makazole Mapimpi, with Pollard in a group of five flyhalves who could battle it out for the ‘best’ No 10. Faf de Klerk is a wonderful player and integral to the effectiveness and potency of the Boks, but in pure playing terms, he would rank behind All Blacks No 9 Aaron Smith and Ireland’s Conor Murray. France’s Antoine Dupont has been sensational for France, but De Klerk would be among the current international elite halfbacks.
Siya Kolisi leads a strong South African contingent at No 6 flanker, but it is the one area where world rugby is particularly strong. But again, the Boks have quality and depth, particularly suited to their confrontational style of play.
Our locking stocks are plenty with Lood de Jager, RG Snyman and Franco Mostert, although the likes of Maro Itoje, James Ryan, Brodie Retallick, Sam Whitelock currently rank above them. And I never disregard the quality of locks and loose-forwards produced by Argentina.
The Bok prop and hooker options are in a different class, which is why the Bok bomb squad was so magnificent at the World Cup.
Erasmus and Nienaber could pick two front row combinations to start against the Lions and there would be very little to chose in quality.
SA Rugby Magazine’s Zelim Nel and myself have been doing a ‘War Room’ show that assesses the quality of the Springboks, in preparation for the Lions tour. For purposes of the series, we ruled out the 2019 Springboks World Cup-winning run-on XV as being ineligible. This way we could get a proper measure of the players available to Erasmus and Nienaber.
The series this week is into the final tight five selections. We’ve confirmed out back up starting XV, from 15-1 and the rugby supporters will vote on their picks, 15-1.
The series has emphasised the tremendous passion for playing Bok selector, as much as it has showcased the depth in South African rugby.
So far, 100 000 have read about our selections, 40 000 have watched the YouTube show and 30 000 have voted. The Facebook reach on SA Rugby Magazine and Keo.co.za has also exceeded 500 000.
If you missed the shows and fans picks, they’re listed below.
Have listen, a watch and a read and you will feel as comforted as I do that the Springboks will tame the Lions three times in succession in July and August.
*Vote on SA Rugby Magazine and you can also win a Springboks jersey.