Rassie: Boks’ next World Cup squad taking shape

SPRINGBOK coach Rassie Erasmus has selected his first matchday 23 of the year, which includes four uncapped players. BackpagePix

SPRINGBOK coach Rassie Erasmus has selected his first matchday 23 of the year, which includes four uncapped players. BackpagePix

Published Jun 19, 2024


Mike Greenaway

SPRINGBOK coach Rassie Erasmus says Saturday’s match against Wales in London is the first small step on a long journey to the 2027 World Cup in Australia and that his quest to build depth is underway.

Erasmus has picked four uncapped players – Edwill van der Merwe (wing), Jordan Hendrikse (flyhalf), Ben-Jason Dixon (lock/flank) and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (utility back) – and recalled rising star Evan Roos.

He is also taking another five uncapped players along for the ride to experience what Test rugby is about.

The Lions duo of Van der Merwe and Hendrikse are in the starting line-up, and the Stormers pair of Dixon and Feinberg-Mngomezulu will play off the bench, while there is a hard core of experience around the newcomers.

PIETER-Steph du Toit will captain the Springboks against Wales. BackpagePix

A total of 10 players in the match 23 featured in the 2023 World Cup final against the All Blacks in Paris, while 16 were members of the Rugby World Cup squad.

The Bok coach explained that over the next three years, it will be like adding layers to a cake so that by the time the Boks get to the next World Cup, only the icing needs to be applied.

“It is vitally important that we use the opportunity to build what we did not have when we won the 2019 World Cup,” Erasmus said.

“We did not have a chance in 2020 to kick on because of Covid, and when we did resume playing, we had to chuck large groups of newcomers into games. We had 18 new players in the game against Wales in 2022 in Bloemfontein and about the same for an away match against Argentina. That was not ideal and we lost those games.”

Erasmus said his challenge is to add new players week by week, while also bringing in the new ideas of assistant coaches Tony Brown and Jerry Flannery.

“It is very important that we ensure we maintain our high standards, the core way we play, while adding on what Tony and Jerry are doing,” he said.

“If we just threw in a bunch of young guys without seniors around them, we won’t know if we have kept our foundation or not. So we have picked this team on the basis that we can stay where we were and we can start building on top of that.”

The Boks have a brand new flyhalf in the 22-year-old Hendrikse, and Erasmus has partnered him with the experienced Faf de Klerk on his inside and the burly Andre Esterhuizen on his outside at centre.

JORDAN Hendrikse will be one of four uncapped players who will play against Wales. BackpagePix

“Jordan is a player we have always believed will come through the ranks,” Erasmus explained. “He has the benefit of having been with us at the training camp for some time (because the Lions finished the United Rugby Championship early).

“With the Bulls players not available, the Stormers players having been with us for just two sessions, and the overseas guys not eligible, it helps to know that you are not picking a guy who has had limited sessions.”

Erasmus has handed the captaincy to veteran Pieter-Steph du Toit. The big flanker last captained the Boks in a similar fixture in 2018, when an experimental team lost to Wales in Washington.

“Pieter-Steph has been a key figure in our system for several years now and he’s a player who leads by example on the field,” said Erasmus.

“We have a strong core of senior players, and we had a few options for captain, but we feel Pieter-Steph will be the right man to lead this team.

“He has captained the Springboks only once before and after that result in Washington, we believe it will make this match even more personal for him.

“Over and above that, he has immense respect from his teammates and the coaches, and we know he will accept this responsibility with great pride.”

Thirty players will travel to London tonight, with those outside of the match-day squad being Manie Libbok (flyhalf), RG Snyman (lock), Neethling Fouche (prop), Phepsi Buthelezi (loose forward), Ethan Hooker (centre), Quan Horn (fullback), and Andre-Hugo Venter (hooker).


Springboks starting XV: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Jordan Hendrikse, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Evan Roos, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit (capt), 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Ox Nche; Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Salmaan Moerat, 20 Ben-Jason Dixon, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, 23 Damian de Allende

Wales starting XV: 15 Cameron Winnett, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Owen Watkin, 12 Mason Grady, 11 Rio Dyer, 10 Sam Costelow, 9 Ellis Bevan, 8 Aaron Wainwright, 7 James Botham, 6 Taine Plumtree, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Ben Carter, 3 Henry Thomas, 2 Dewi Lake (capt), 1 Gareth Thomas; Replacements: 16 Evan Lloyd, 17 Kemsley Mathias, 18 Keiron Keiron Assiratti, 19 James Ratti, 20 Mackenzie Martin, 21 Gareth Davies, 22 Eddie James, 23 Jacob Beetham