Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has entrusted his Lion-taming Boks to deal with the challenge of the Wallabies. He has respected the occasion of the Rugby Championship in picking his best 23, writes Mark Keohane.
In 2019, Bok coach Rassie Erasmus sent the core of his first choice run on XV to Wellington, New Zealand to give them an additional week to prepare for the All Blacks. The match would end 16-all. He trusted the second-string Springboks to take care of the Wallabies at home – and the Boks did it in emphatic style. It was the Test in which Hershel Jantjies announced himself to the rugby world.
This time Erasmus, as National Director of Rugby, and Nienaber, as head coach, are sending out the best 23 in Sunday’s Rugby Championship showdown with Australia. Most of the players in the 23 were the ones entrusted against the British & Irish Lions and the most noticeable inclusion is that of fit-again No 8 Duane Vermeulen, who has missed all six Bok Tests this year because of injury.
The Boks are without Pieter-Steph du Toit and Cheslin Kolbe, the world’s best loose-forward and best outside back, with Du Toit gone for the season and Kolbe injured at training earlier in the week. For the rest, it is as good as it can get for the Boks and Nienaber’s 23 on Sunday includes 19 World Cup winners and 12 of the starting XV from the World Cup final in 2019.
The match starting XV also includes 12 of the players from the victorious series-deciding third Test against the British & Irish Lions in Cape Town a month ago.
The consistency in who makes up the preferred starting XV has been present since the World Cup play-offs in 2019. It is this consistency and stability that makes the Boks so dangerous.
There are seven changes from the starting XV that beat the Pumas 29-10 in the most recent Test but there were 10 changes before that and that Boks side won 32-12. The depth within the squad is reflected in how comfortably both Bok teams beat the Pumas.
Vermeulen’s return aside, the Boks have the necessary players fit to revert to the famed Bomb Squad of six forwards and two backs, with Damian Willemse covering every position except scrumhalf and Hershel Jantjies the specialist No 9 cover.
The Boks, in selecting lock specialist Franco Mostert at blindside flank, are spoilt for choice with lineout options and the second and back row replacements provide versatility in the respective strengths of Jasper Wiese, Marco van Staden and Kwagga Smith.
— Springboks (@Springboks) September 8, 2021
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