RUGBY: Springboks’ impressive depth in all positions means plenty of collateral damage when RWC 2023 squad is named

RUGBY: Springboks’ impressive depth in all positions means plenty of collateral damage when RWC 2023 squad is named

It’s a sign of growth that, four years ago, South Africans didn’t really know who was good enough to make the Springbok Rugby World Cup squad. Out of the 31 places available then, it was difficult to fill the roster. 

Had Herschel Jantjies not emerged as well as he did in the early stages of 2019, the third scrumhalf berth would’ve been a coin toss between two or three journeymen. This time around, Jantjies is likely to miss out as there are five credible candidates for the position. 

And despite Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira’s retirement, loosehead props are falling over themselves to make the squad. Outside backs anyone? It’s got to the point where Makazole Mapimpi doesn’t appear to be a shoo-in, with the rise of Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie.

Flyhalf Manie Libbok has come along and solved a problem after Elton Jantjies’ form and private life fell off a cliff. Centre Andre Esterhuizen has charged into the reckoning with the same impact he smashes into opponents on the field, while flank/hooker Deon Fourie offers versatility in the Schalk Brits mould of four years ago. 

Springbok Rugby World Cup squad announced

The Springboks’ 33-man squad for Rugby World Cup 2023 in France will be named on 8 August. Which nine of these 42 players will miss out on final selection? (Photos: Supplied)

In some ways, this will be coach Jacques Nienaber and the rest of the management’s easiest squad to pick. But in truth, it will be the hardest because out of the 42 contenders, nine excellent and deserving players will miss out on the final 33-man squad.

Stalwart Franco Mostert, one of 26 survivors still in the mix from that glorious 2019 campaign in Japan, could be the biggest omission. He has failed to impress in two outings this year and, with plenty of flank and lock options, his prospects are shaky.

Mostert’s place could depend on whether Nienaber opts for a split of 19 forwards and 14 backs or an 18/15 dissection. If it’s the former, then Mostert should make the cut, with centre Esterhuizen losing out. But if 15 backs travel, the big midfielder should be on the plane at Mostert’s expense.

It also looks to be a choice between Marvin Orie and Jean Kleyn for the fourth lock position, while Fourie is set to go as the third hooker/sixth loose forward.

Orie runs the lineout in Lood de Jager’s absence and has been in the squad for years, while Kleyn has just come in. The Munster-based Kleyn is more of a No 4 lock in the Eben Etzebeth mould, while Orie is a No 5. With De Jager and RG Snyman nailed down, Orie could be the unlucky one in this instance.

Marvin Orie of South Africa catches the ball during the Rugby Union international match between South Africa and Georgia at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on July 02, 2021 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

But whichever way you cut it, those who won’t be ensconced at the Boks’ plush Toulon hotel in early September can consider themselves unlucky.

Depth success

While the Springboks’ win rate since the last World Cup is at an acceptable 65%, which is slightly higher than the Boks’ traditional 62% winning percentage, the real success has been in building depth.

Every position has at least two excellent choices and in some cases, a third player could also make a strong claim. That’s the real success of what Nienaber and his staff have achieved between World Cups.

Rugby Championship, Jacques Nienaber

The Rugby Championship Test at Ellis Park was Springboks coach Jacques Nienaber’s last in this competition. He will step down after RWC 2023 in France to take up a position at Irish club Leinster. (Photo: Gordon Arons/Gallo Images)

When you consider the Boks didn’t play any rugby at all in 2020 due to Covid and the impact of the global shutdown, they

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