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Updated: The new look Bok side that should face Wales at Twickenham

BY Philip Bendon  ·  Tuesday Jun 11, 2024

The reigning Rugby World Cup champions, South Africa, will make their long-awaited return when they take on Wales at Twickenham Stadium in London.

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Naming a 35-man squad which excludes players from the Vodacom Bulls who will face Leinster in the upcoming BKT United Rugby Championship semi-final at Loftus Versfeld this Saturday.

Facing Wales on June 22nd before tackling Ireland in a two-test series and Portugal in a one-off test in July, the Boks will begin their rebuild ahead of the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

With the players now named ahead of the Wales test, here is a new look Bok side that could take to the pitch at Twickenham.

15. Aphelele Fassi
Given the struggles of his team this season (Challenge Cup aside), Fassi had an exceptional season. Topping the clean breaks and meters made charts in the URC as well as ranking 5th in successful carries, offers a snippet into how effective the Sharks fullback has been this season.

14. Edwill van der Merwe
A long overdue debut for the Lions star, who has routinely been one of the best finishers in the URC. Able to operate in limited space, van der Merwe fills the gap left by the absence of Kurt-Lee Arendse and Cheslin Kolbe as a hot-stepping danger-man out wide.

13. Jesse Kriel
Few players left the World Cup with their stock higher than Kriel, who entered the tournament as the clear second choice behind Lukhanyo Am. Taking the jersey and making it his own in Am’s absence, Kriel might well have edged the Sharks star even if he had been fit.

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12. Damian De Allende
A flip of a coin between De Allende and Andre Esterhuizen for the number 12 shirt, but De Allende has so much credit in the bank that he gets the first crack of the whip in 2024.

11. Makazole Mapimpi
Getting back to his lethal best, Mapimpi brings experience to an otherwise fresh-faced back three against Wales. Scoring in both the Challenge Cup semi and final proved once again that the 33-year-old is a big game player.

10. Siya Masuku 
With Handre Pollard unavailable and Manie Libbok struggling mightily in the URC quarterfinal, now is the time for the Sharks star to stake his claim for the number ten shirt. His performances since displacing Curwin Bosch in the Sharks line up have been nothing short of world class.

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9. Grant Williams
The electric scrumhalf appears to have nudged himself of Jaden Hendrikse as the Sharks’ first choice and is the form 9 in South African Rugby at the time of writing. His ability to make a clean break at ruck time, as well as running intelligent support lines, will be a key factor for the Boks in a match where their pack should get on top.

8. Evan Roos
Despite being just 24 years old, 2024 has a feeling of a season where Roos either steps up or gets left behind. Missing out on the URC quarterfinal due to a niggle sustained in training, Roos will be chomping at the bit to get back on the pitch. In terms of a like-for-like option with the departed Duane Vermeulen, the Stormers youngster has all the ingredients to become the next incumbent.

7. Pieter-Steph Du Toit
Possibly the best player walking the planet, PSDT is perhaps not spoken enough about as a potential Bok captain. Leading by example, the rangy backrow dominates when the stakes are at their highest and has already signalled his intention to push towards the next World Cup.

6. Kwagga Smith
An out-and-out fetcher is a must in this pack, and Smith will fill this role with aplomb. The 31-year-old is just back from injury but has confirmed that he is fit and ready to go, which is a major boost given the suspension of Jasper Wiese and the fact that the Bulls players remain unavailable.

5. Salmaan Moerat
The Stormers skipper has enjoyed a strong season since returning from injury in round 10 of the URC. At 26 years old, Moerat is the youngest lock in the squad for this fixture and could well go on to become a leader for the Boks over the coming four years.

4. Eben Etzebeth (C)
The captain of our team, Etzebeth, is the most logical of future captains alongside PSDT, and despite his advanced age of 32, he should make it to the next World Cup. Should this be the case, then Erasmus may well choose to build around him as his long-term captain.

3. Frans Malherbe
Coming off a hit-and-miss URC season, Malherbe remains one of the top scrummaging tightheads in world rugby. The question marks will be focused on what he brings around the pitch, with several more dynamic options coming through the ranks (namely Bath’s Thomas Du Toit), but for the opening test, he is the perfect veteran option to start the season.

2. Andre-Hugo Venter
Perhaps the most controversial choice, but the young Stormer has all of the traits needed to be a top-class international. With Malcolm Marx’s fitness still in doubt, Venter gets the nod for us to start.

1. Ox Nche
The best scrummaging loosehead in the world… Fact! The Sharks star will no doubt anchor the Bok scrum for the next four years and so he should. As a ball player, Nche is a solid carrier and has an underrated skill set when it comes to his passing and footwork before contact.

Replacements:

16. Bongi Mbonambi
Providing key experience from the bench, Mbonambi starts in the bomb squad and offers a safety net should Venter struggle.

17. Ntuthuko Mchunu
A freakishly good athlete, Mchunu will learn behind Nche for the foreseeable future before challenging him for his jersey. Given his dynamic ball-carrying ability, he is the perfect impact sub to bring on early in the second half.

18. Vincent Koch
Another veteran who is coming close to the end of his career, Koch, will ensure that his scrummaging performance does not drop an inch when he comes on while offering more of a carrying threat than Malherbe.

19. Franco Mostert
Our lock cover in the matchday-23, Mostert, could well slot into the backrow should Erasmus opt to keep Etzebeth and Moerat or move PSDT into the secondrow.

20. Ben Jason-Dixon
A near like-for-like in terms of build with PSDT, Erasmus will be looking to groom the 26-year-old this season with a view to him challenging for the starting number 7 shirt going forward.

21. Phepsi Buthelezi
Taking over the Kwagga Smith role as an ultra-dynamic operator who covers both the backrow and backline, the Sharks man feels destined for a breakout international season in 2024. More than capable at the breakdown, Buthelezi’s biggest strength is his dynamic carrying.

22. Morne van den Berg
Covering both scrumhalf and the back three, the Lions man has enjoyed a breakthrough season in 2024. His versatility, along with that of Grant Williams, means the Boks have two nines who can comfortably cover the backfield if needed.

23. Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu
The most exciting prospect in South African Rugby, Feinberg-Mngomezulu will cover both ten and twelve in this match day squad. In an ideal world he will come on at twelve alongside Pollard to learn from the double World Cup winner. Watch this space, he is the next Bok superstar flyhalf.

Forwards: Phepsi Buthelezi (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Joseph Dweba, Ben-Jason Dixon (both DHL Stormers), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz), Eben Etzebeth (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Neethling Fouche (DHL Stormers), Vincent Koch (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Celimpilo Gumede (Bulls), Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers), Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears), Bongi Mbonambi (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Ntuthuko Mchunu (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Salmaan Moerat (DHL Stormers), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat), Ox Nche (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Evan Roos (DHL Stormers), Kwagga Smith (Blu Revs), Andre-Hugo Venter (DHL Stormers), Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers).

Backs: Damian de Allende (Panasonic Wild Knights), Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles), Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins), Aphelele Fassi (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Jordan Hendrikse (Emirates Lions), Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (DHL Stormers), Ethan Hooker (Hollywoodbets Sharks), Quan Horn (Emirates Lions), Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles), Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers), Makazole Mapimpi, Siya Masuku (both Hollywoodbets Sharks), Handre Pollard (Leicester Tigers), Morne van den Berg (Emirates Lions), Edwill van der Merwe (Emirates Lions), Grant Williams (Hollywoodbets Sharks).

In the latest episode of Walk the Talk, Jim Hamilton chats with double World Cup winner Damian de Allende about all things Springbok rugby, including RWC2023 and the upcoming Ireland series. Watch now for free on RugbyPass TV

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