The Springboks are one of the teams reportedly in line to replace Japan in the upcoming Eight Nations tournament, despite the fact that South Africa’s borders remain closed.
South Africa remains in Stage 2 of lockdown, meaning that non-essential travel including for international sport is still prohibited by the government.
While there are reports from the UK suggesting that Georgia and not the Springboks will replace Japan, the World Champions should be considered the preferred option for the tournament.
Many South African players, both current Springboks and hopefuls, are currently plying their trade across Europe and could be called upon for the tournament.
Wilco Louw joined Harlequins for the 2020/21 season and has yet to play a game for his new side.
The 13-time-capped Springbok moved to Quins from Toulon, after missing out on selection for the World Cup last year.
Joining Louw in the line-up, Vincent Koch has been a member of the Saracens’ squad since 2016.
Koch came off the bench in the World Cup final against England and has long been touted as the next man in for Frans Malherbe in the Boks’ starting lineup.
The Bok bench could include veteran Springbok Coenie Oosthuizen, who is part of the South African-laden Sale Sharks squad.
Completing the Bok bench, Thomas ‘the Tank’ du Toit has earned 12 caps for his country and is currently in France with Toulouse.
Notable replacements: Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh), Corne Fourie (Gloucester), Oliver Kebble (Glasgow Warriors).
Armand “Akker” van der Merwe is another Sale Sharks man that could start for the Springboks if needed.
Van der Merwe was the prototype of Malcom Marx for the Lions in Super Rugby, prior to Marx’s debut, and could fill this role for the Boks.
Supporting him from the bench, veteran Bismarck du Plessis has been playing for Montpellier since 2015.
The 36-year-old is widely regarded as one of the most accomplished and experienced hookers in world rugby, and would play a similar role to that of Schalk Brits at the World Cup.
Notable replacements: Joseph Dweba (Union Bordeaux Begles), Franco Marais (Gloucester).
Both of South Africa’s starting locks for the World Cup final last year are currently playing in Europe.
Lood de Jager and Eben Etzebeth are guaranteed starters even if the players based in South Africa are permitted to travel.
The injury to RG Snyman is not just a blow to Munster, as South Africa will miss the “freak” athlete, as Alan Quinlan called him.
However, Marvin Orie has been a solid replacement for the Springboks since making his debut in 2018, and his current place in Ospreys will see him available to bench for the Springboks at the end of the year.
Notable replacement: Stephan Lewies (Harlequins)
South Africa is blessed with a number of talented loose forwards currently playing in Europe, including Marcel Coetzee, Dan du Preez, Jean-Luc du Preez, Rynhardt Elstadt and Ruan Ackermann.
Speaking on Off The Ball on Sunday, Cian Tracey mentioned that Coetzee is “the best player playing in Ireland at the moment,” when he is on form, and he will be a certainty to start at No 8 for the Boks.
Additionally, the Du Preez brothers have been dominant for Sale since moving to Manchester, and will benefit if Siya Kolisi and Pieter-Steph du Toit are not able to travel to Europe.
Ryhanrdt Elstadt and Ruan Ackermann both offer the ability to play in the second row as well as the back row, which is something the Springboks used to good effect with Du Toit and Franco Mostert last year.
Playing in Toulouse and Gloucester respectively, either one, or both, will be good cover in the Bok “Bomb Squad”.
Notable replacements: Chris Cloete (Munster), Cobus Wiese (Sale Sharks), Cyle Brink (Leicester Tigers)
Playing for Sale Sharks, Faf de Klerk is one of the most dynamic and exciting scrum halves in World Rugby.
A usual face in Rassie Erasmus’ starting line-up, there is no reason to suggest that this would change in 2020 under new head coach Jacques Nienebar.
Similarly, Handre Pollard is South Africa’s first choice number 10, and has enjoyed a successful partnership with De Klerk.
As he is now plying his trade in Montpellier, Pollard will be eligible should South Africa form part of the Eight Nations tournament.
Nic Groom (Edinburgh), Francois Hougaard (Glasgow Warriors) and Cobus Reinach (Montpellier) are all able players to support De Klerk from the bench.
Potential replacement flyhalves include Robert du Preez (Sale Sharks) and Damian Willemse (Saracens), but a potential outside choice is Edinburgh’s Jaco van der Walt (Edinburgh).
Munster’s Damian de Allende has shown little of his pre-COVID-19 form for his new club, however he is still the first choice player for Nienebar’s number 12 jersey.
Outside him, though, there are a few players that could fill in for usual international partner Lukhanyo Am.
Jan Serfontein has not played for the Springboks since his move to Montpellier in 2017, but South Africa could yet make use of his pace and playmaking ability again.
Wasps centre Juan de Jongh could be in with an outside chance of making a return to the Springboks.
De Jongh has made over 50 appearance for Wasps since 2017, and he would add much-needed experience to a European Springboks side.
Notable replacements: Rohan Janse van Rensberg (Sale Sharks), Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins).
South Africa’s hot-stepping back three are all but locked down in South Africa, with the exception of Cheslin Kolbe.
Kolbe, who scored South Africa’s second try in the final against England, was selected for the Springboks by Erasmus off of his exceptional form for Toulouse since 2017.
Supporting Kolbe on the wings would most likely be Dillyn Leyds, who has been capped 10 times for his country, and a likely 15s debut for Werner Kok.
Kok, who has been a dominant enforcer on the wing for the South Africa Sevens side since 2013, recently moved to Toulouse where he has earned five caps.
The other option for Nienebar should he need to select a European-only squad would be to select Duhan van der Merwe, who has yet to play for Scotland and is still eligible for South Africa.
The powerful and speedy winger has made the most meters and clean breaks in the 2019/20 PRO 14 season, and lead Edinburgh to the semi-finals.
He becomes eligible for Scotland in November this year, so either way he should take some part in the Eight Nations tournament.
Notable replacement: Tyrone Green (Harlequins).
European Boks XV:
- Wilco Louw
- Akker van der Merwe
- Vincent Koch
- Lood de Jager
- Eben Etzebeth (Captain)
- Jean-Luc du Preez
- Dan du Preez
- Marcell Coetzee
- Faf de Klerk
- Handre Pollard
- Dillyn Leyds
- Damian de Allende
- Jan Serfontein
- Werner Kok
- Cheslin Kolbe
- Joseph Dweba
- Coenie Oosthuizen
- Thomas du Toit
- Marvin Orie
- Rynhardt Elstadt
- Ruan Ackermann
- Cobus Reinach
- Damian Willemse
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