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The Springbok team that on form should start the first test of 2024

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Monday Apr 29, 2024

It’s a new dawn and it’s a new day for the back-to-back Rugby World Cup champions South Africa, a fact not lost on head coach Rassie Erasmus.

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Renowned for his ability to make ruthless decisions for the betterment of his team, Eramsus will know that their first fixture since that famous night in Paris is the beginning of a new story for South African Rugby.

Facing a Welsh side that is fresh off a Six Nations wooden spoon at Twickenham presents the Boks with the perfect first-up opportunity to work with new talent ahead of what will be a gruelling season.

Taking their first step towards unchartered territory as the first side to win three consecutive World Cups. Erasmus and his charges will need to be brave and turn over a new leaf early in the cycle as several incredible servants bid adieu to the test arena.

In this vein, here is a Springbok 23 that should start the next four-year cycle against Wales at Twickenham later this year.

1. Ox Nché – Hollywoodbets Sharks

Still just 28-years-old, the man who singlehandedly defused the English scrum in the semi-final should be the loosehead starter for the next four years. Given potential skipper Steven Kitshoff will miss the rest of the season with injury, now is the time for the Sharks star to get one up on his competitor.

2. Johan Grobbelaar – Vodacom Bulls

Arguably the most left-field choice here, but with reports that Malcolm Marx remains injured in Japan, the young Bulls star has a shot. Given the age profile surrounding World Cup warrior Bongi Mbonambi (33), now is the time for fresh blood to battle with Marx going forward. In terms of the young guns, Grobbelaar looks to have the edge over the exciting Stormers hooker Andre-Hugo Venter and 28-year-old Joseph Dweba.

3. Frans Malherbe – DHL Stormers

Does anyone else feel like the 33-year-old has been playing pro rugby since the 1990s? Like Mbonambi the tighthead is on the back nine of his career but remains the top tighthead in South Africa. His Stormers teammate Neethling Fouché (31) and Bok buddy Vincent Koch (34) are both aging well whilst Bath’s Thomas Du Toit (28) feels like the obvious next man up. Behind this group the giant duo of Carlu Sadie and Asenathi Ntlabakanye would make for perfect ‘Bomb Squad’ players.

4. Eben Etzebeth (C) – Hollywoodbets Sharks

One of the only really obvious choices in this team, Etzebeth has the potential to end his career as the most capped player of all time when it is said and done. A colossus in every sense of the word and now, without a shadow of a doubt, the greatest lock ever produced by South African Rugby. From a leadership standpoint, he is the clear leader in the club house given Erasmus’s vision to have a local based captain.

5. RG Snyman – Munster Rugby

Munster fans look away! Returning from injury and instantly dominating, Snyman has the potential to be the best lock in World Rugby over the next four years. Still just 29-years-old, the 6’10” and 130kg powerhouse is an uber dynamic playmaker with all of the skills to play whatever style of game the new Bok coaching staff wish to employ.

6. Elrigh Louw – Vodacom Bulls

Slightly out of position, given he predominately plays in the 7 or 8 shirts for the Bulls, the 24-year-old is the real deal and feels like the next Pieter-Steph Du Toit. Given the abundance of riches in this department, an argument could be made for about ten different players to start in the six shirt. However, with Siya Kolisi out injured, Deon Fourie being 37, and the other options being rotated, Louw gets the first crack at the whip in 2024.

7. Pieter-Steph Du Toit – Toyota Verblitz

Like his former Stormers teammate Etzebeth, PSDT is quite possibly the finest player ever in his position, which is a real statement given to those who have gone before. However, when one stacks him up against any former Bok 7, the former World Player Of The Year comes out on top.

8. Evan Roos – DHL Stormers

A divisive character in South African Rugby, there can be no denying the raw ability of the Stormers man. What seemingly gets forgotten on a regular basis is the fact that he is just 24-years-old and far from the finished article. Thus, if he were to be around the likes of PSDT, Etzebeth, and others, could he become world class? You bet he could! His biggest challenge will be holding off the other dynamic young backrows coming through, namely one Cameron Hanekom.

9. Herschel Jantjies – DHL Stormers

Before we continue, we would like to say calm down… We know that Jantjies might not be the main choice for many people but the 28-year-old looks primed to add to his 24 test caps. No doubt the battle will be fierce between him, Grant Williams, Faf de Klerk, Embrose Papier, Jaden Hendrikse and Cobus Reinach but the Stormers man is just in red hot form of late.

10. Handre Pollard – Leicester Tigers

If the World Cup taught us anything it is that Pollard is still the man in the number ten shirt. Having recently turned 30, he remains at the peak of his powers and will do for the next four years. His chief competitor, Manie Libbok, is an exhilarating watch but just has too many head-scratching/disappointing performances to build a game plan around. Behind this pair, there are several youngsters putting their hands up. Stormers star Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu is looking to be the next man up.

11. Cheslin Kolbe – Tokyo Sungoliath

Still irresistible in attack and potent in defence, Kolbe is still one of the top five wingers in the world and an automatic starter when fit. At 30-years-old he will have his work cut out for him to hold off some of top young talent coming through, but in 2024, he remains the man in possession of the jersey.

12. Damian Willemse – DHL Stormers

Although he played fullback at the World Cup, Willemse has the potential to be the best inside centre in the world, given his physical and mental attributes. Capable of playing any style of game, Willemse looks set to be the key backline building block for Rassie’s Boks 3.0. Whether it is creating space with his feet, offloading, passing, kicking or simply trucking it up, Willemse does it all to an elite level.

13. Canan Moodie – Vodacom Bulls

Slightly controversial to leave out both Lukhanyo Am and World Cup star Jesse Kriel, but the future of the Bok 13 shirt is already here. While the Bulls man can play on the wing, he is exceptional, and now is the time to bed him into the role for the long haul.

14. Kurt-Lee Arendse – Vodacom Bulls

The Bok’s second ‘pocket rocket’ KLA is like a prime Breyton Paulse meets Brent Russell with a sprinkling of Shane Williams (yes, all small wingers we know!). At 27-years-old he will arrive in Australia as a highly experienced winger who will somehow be better than he already is!

15. Warrick Gelant – DHL Stormers

Another interesting choice and one where debate is more than welcome. Since returning to South Africa to link up with the Stormers, Gelant has been the best locally-based option for the 15 shirts. Whilst Willie Le Roux has been good for the Bulls, Gelant brings an added layer of physicality and pace to the position. His age profile as a 28-year-old makes him a solid short and long-term option. Other options include the Sharks paceman Aphelele Fassi and Willemse, should the Bok coaches opt to go that way.

Bench Options

16. Bongi Mbonambi (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – Offering experience from the bench as the leader of the bomb squad.

17. Wilco Louw (Vodacom Bulls) – One of the in-form looseheads in the BKT URC, Louw edges out the like of Du Toit (who can play both sides of the scrum).

18. Vincent Koch (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – Still doing the business at 34 years old, Koch has the feeling of a player who could go deep into his 30s but will face challenges from a handful of younger options.

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19. Reinhardt Ludwig (Vodacom Bulls) – One of the most exciting forwards in South Africa, the 21-year-old has earned praise from all corners this year, with Springbok icon Victor Matfield tipping him as the next big thing.

20. Ruan Venter (Emirates Lions) – The versatile Utility forward for our bomb squad, the 21-year-old is the next coming of Willem Alberts and will cover both the second and backrows.

21. Phepsi Buthelezi (Hollywoodbets Sharks) – Edging another dynamic forward in Hacjivah Dayimani, Buthelezi’s ability to play across the backrow and backline as the new age Kwagga Smith makes the 6 – 2 split work.

22. Sanele Nohamba (Emirates Lions) – The ultimate utility back, the Lions halfback has played to a high level at both 9 and 10 this year in what is a massively exciting development for both province and country. This ability mitigates the need for a back-up ten and allows for an out-and-out centre/back-three option in the 23 shirt.

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23. Suleiman Hartzenberg (DHL Stormers) – Another uber-exciting player at the beginning of their career, the former Bishops star is comfortable in any shirt from 11 through to 15. Exceptionally explosive in attack whilst also being rock solid in defence, Hartzenberg would bring an X-factor from the bench.

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