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RUGBY WORLD CUP

Bok fringe players pose tough questions for management before RWC 2023 squad announcement

Bok fringe players pose tough questions for management before RWC 2023 squad announcement
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber celebrates with the players after a hard-fought 24-13 win over Argentina. It was the last match before Nienaber names his 33-man World Cup squad on 8 August. (Photo: Marcelo Endelli / Getty Images)

Despite Nienaber’s 13 changes, Springboks still managed to beat Argentina to create selection problems for the coaches.

Argentina 13 (10) South Africa 24 (3)

It’s testament to the depth the Springbok management has created that a mix-and-match team with effectively a fourth-choice wing, third-choice scrumhalf, third-choice prop, locks who are fifth and sixth in the pecking order, a 36-year-old openside, a fringe centre and understudy flyhalf, won in Argentina. 

The 24-13 victory margin actually flattered the home team who were completely outplayed in the second half, which the Boks “won” 21-3. Argentina only enjoyed a small period of dominance in the second quarter and led 1o-3 at the break. 

Resplendent in their new alternate strip of white and “hyper jade” (Nike’s official name for the colour), many Springbok fringe players did their Rugby World Cup (RWC) 2023 chances no harm. 

Centre Andre Esterhuizen, flank Jean-Luc du Preez, debutant prop Gerhard Steenekamp, the almost forgotten Herschel Jantjies and veteran prop Trevor Nyakane will make the final selection meeting tough. 

Coach Jacques Nienaber admitted he was in for a rough time, trimming the squad down to 33 players for RWC 2023. The squad will be named on 8 August. 

The was an almost entirely different team to the one that beat the Pumas 22-21 at Ellis Park a week earlier. With three Rugby Championship matches and this Test before RWC 2023 selection Nienaber confirmed. 

“We said we would try and do this and explained it to the players at the start of the season. 

“We have given 38 players the opportunity to play (in four games) and it is going to be a very difficult squad selection meeting. Many guys put their hands up over the last few weeks.

“We tried to make sure everyone had a proper run of minutes, though having said that it is impossible to give each player the same game-time because you want to build combinations. 

“Some guys also finished their [domestic seasons] a long time ago, others more recently, so we tried to balance that too.” 

Bok prop Trevor Nyakane made his first start of the year against the Pumas and delivered a strong display during the 24-13 victory at Jose Amalfitani Stadium in Buenos Aires. (Photo: Marcelo Endelli / Getty Images)

Good comeback 

Had the Boks been more clinical – they were twice held up over the line and flyhalf Manie Libbok missed four kicks at goal – the margin of victory would’ve been wider. 

But despite mistakes, the wayward early goal-kicking and some poor options, there was a lot to like about the performance. Especially after halftime. 

Wing Canan Moodie, only 20 and who was clearly behind Cheslin Kolbe, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Makazole Mapimpi in the wing queue before this match, secured his Rugby World Cup 2023 berth. That’s if it even needed securing. He is such a rare talent that it would be criminal if he didn’t make it to France. 

Moodie has such a high rugby IQ, combined with wonderful athletic gifts, that it’s actually conceivable he might relegate Kolbe to a reserve berth before the year is out. 

Moodie scored a great try, running on to cross field kick/pass from Libbok that was so well weighted it might have been designed in a Nasa lab. 

Moodie’s speed and anticipation saw him take the kick almost at full tilt with Pumas wing Santiago Cordero caught marginally out of position and beaten by the Libbok-Moodie combo. 

That try took the Boks into the lead six minutes into the second half. A few minutes earlier they levelled the scores when Mapimpi finished a sharp move down the left in which fullback Damian Willemse was prominent with some deft touches. 

There is little doubt that No 15 is Willemse’s best position, but he is a victim of his own outrageous versatility. 

Bok centre Lukhanyo Am didn’t emerge for the second half after suffering a knee injury late in the first half against the Pumas. It’s a concern with the Boks’ Rugby World Cup squad set to be announced on 8 August. (Photo: Marcelo Endelli / Getty Images)

Lukhanyo Am scare 

Libbok, who missed some sitters, never let it derail what was otherwise a very good performance. His ability to shrug off mishaps and follow them with some sublime plays shows his mental strength. But in a World Cup he will have to be more consistent from the tee. 

After three first-half misses, he landed the conversion to Mapimpi’s try from the touchline and then slotted three more penalties as the Bok pressure told on the Pumas. 

The home team conceded eight penalties after halftime as the relentless hyper jade onslaught continued to come in waves. 

The one sour note from the outing was a possible recurrence of the knee injury that has plagued Lukhanyo Am for most of the season. He never emerged for the second half, and there will now be an anxious couple of days to assess the setback. 

The Boks, who are already set to include captain Siya Kolisi after a long knee injury lay-0ff, cannot risk too many players under an injury cloud. 

“To be honest, I’m not 100% sure,” Nienaber said when quizzed about the seriousness of Am’s injury. “We just said he can’t continue after the knock to his leg. But I’m really not sure about his injury.” 

Bongi happy 

Captain on the day Bongi Mbonambi was satisfied with the outing, and considering the travel, the patchwork team and the hostile environment in Buenos Aires. 

“The one thing the coaches made sure of was to give as many players as possible a chance to play,” Mbonambi said. 

“The guys showed today they are ready to build to the Rugby World Cup. There’s no doubt the players have made it tough for the coaches [in terms of squad selection]. 

“We tried a lot of things in the first half and the outcomes didn’t go our way, but we knew if we kept pressing and believing, it would come in the second half. And that certainly paid off. 

“We spoke about backing one another all week, and the players certainly did that.” DM

Scorers:

Argentina – Try: Gonzalo Bertranou. Conversion: Emiliano Boffelli. Penalties: Boffelli (2)

South Africa – Tries: Makazole Mapimpi, Canan Moodie. Conversion: Manie Libbok. Penalties: Libbok (4).

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Johan Buys says:

    What I’d love to see : we muddle through the stages with Faf doing his Tik Tok nonsense, but when Boks run out in final (unannounced team) Cheslyn is not right wing, but scrum half. That would scramble, nuke, fry any opposing team’s game defensive game plan. If he steps past one flank, and opponents have usual defense = 5 points. If they adapt to Cheslyn, we might FINALLY see our back line in action.

  • Gordon Bentley says:

    Coach please tell Faf NOT to kick away possession by kicking wildly into the centre of the field. He must have a reason to kick – either kick to gain territory or to kick where our players can benefit from getting the ball with less risk factor.]

    Elton used to do a similar thing and many times he kicked straight into the arms of the opposition who kept ball in hand and went on to score a try. Surely the name of the game is to keep ball in hand as much as possible and pass from player to player by keeping ball possesion. That is the way to score – not kicking away possesion wildly…

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