One of the standout players in the English Premiership over the past couple of years, Andre Esterhuizen, has been awarded his first Springbok test appearance since 2019.
The 6 ft 4 in, 18 stone giant, has been a revelation for Harlequins since signing in 2020, providing the real power that allowed for the playmaking duo of Danny Care and Marcus Smith to unleash the speedsters out wide.
Recently discussing his move to England, Esterhuizen admitted he didn’t realise how important the move was for his career: “I didn’t think it would be so important for my career. When I got there, I wondered at the beginning if it was the right decision. Playing in another team, which has such a big focus on attacking play, meant an incredible amount to my development. I think I am much better equipped these days, and I also think differently about the game. Looking back, it’s the best decision I’ve made.”
In what will be his 12th appearance in South African national colours, Esterhuizen will line up alongside World Player of the Year, Lukhanyo Am in the midfield, as well as a mixture of youth and experience all vying for a place in the World Cup squad this year.
Speaking about his World Cup prospects, the big centre said: “I just missed 2019. Any player wants to represent his country in a World Cup tournament. This is my big motivation. But I also know you have to be grateful for every Test you play in, because it’s a great honour.”
Springbok Head Coach Jacques Nienaber was confident about his selection: “This squad features several Rugby World Cup winners and a crop of younger players who have done the job for us at the highest level, and judging by their enthusiasm and high work ethic at training, we know they are the right players for this big task.”
South Africa Starting XV: 1. Ox Nche (Cell C Sharks) 2. Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks) 3. Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) 4. Jean Kleyn (Munster) 5. Marvin Orie (DHL Stormers) 6. Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls) 7. Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz) 8. Duane Vermeulen (Captain – Ulster) 9. Cobus Reinach (Montpellier) 10. Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers) 11. Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls) 12. Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins) 13. Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks) 14. Canan Moodie (Vodacom Bulls) 15. Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz)
Replacements: 16. Joseph Dweba (DHL Stormers) 17. Thomas du Toit (Cell C Sharks) 18. Vincent Koch (Stade Francais) 19. RG Snyman (Munster) 20. Evan Roos (DHL Stormers) 21. Deon Fourie (DHL Stormers) 22. Grant Williams (Cell C Sharks) 23. Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers)