Bok squad evolution in full swing with 11 newbies selected

Rassie Erasmus selected his first 35-man squad for 2024 yesterday morning. | Backpagepix

Rassie Erasmus selected his first 35-man squad for 2024 yesterday morning. | Backpagepix

Published Jun 10, 2024


Mike Greenaway

The first Springbok squad of 2024 is an indication that Rassie Erasmus has a clear eye on the need to build depth on the path to the 2027 World Cup in Australia.

The Bok squad that defended the World Cup in France last year is ageing and Erasmus understands better than anyone that the next three years are about slowly filtering out the players who are not going to make it to Australia and blooding newcomers.

Unsurprisingkly, Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu of the Stormers has been selected in the squad. | BackpagePix

The trick is to slowly but surely evolve the Bok squad so that by the time they attempt a three-peat of titles, there will be a settled squad and no need for a shock to the system. The Bok coach has named 11 uncapped players in a 35-man squad that has a specific focus on the June 22 friendly against Wales.

Players based in Europe, the UK and Ireland will not be considered for this game and they will be back for the big one — the two-Test series against Ireland in the first fortnight of July — but the blooding process has begun and over this year and next, the newcomers will get more opportunities.

Importantly, no Bulls players are considered for this squad because of their involvement in the United Rugby Championship play-offs and this makes Erasmus’ plan for the future all the more exciting because there are still the likes of Cameron Hanekom, Elrigh Louw, Wilco Louw, Johan Grobbelaar and Ruan Nortje in contention for the wider squad.

Edwill van der Merwe of the Emirates Lions was surely a late inclusion into the squad. | BackpagePix

The uncapped players in the squad are Jordan Hendrikse, Quan Horn, Edwill van der Merwe, Morne van den Berg (all Lions players), Phepsi Buthelezi, Siya Masuku, Ethan Hooker (from the Sharks), Ben-Jason Dixon, Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, Neethling Fouche and Andre-Hugo Venter (Stormers).

The value of giving young players an opportunity a few seasons out from the World Cup is well illustrated by Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber’s decision to field a “B-team” against Wales in Bloemfontein in 2022.

Wales won the match with a late penalty and the Bok coaches were criticised for making sweeping changes to the team that had won in Pretoria the week before but the value was the introduction of a bunch of youngsters to Test rugby — Kurt-Lee Arendse the perfect example.

As Erasmus said: “In terms of the young players we have selected, we believe they have the potential to make the step up to top international rugby.

“We’ve been following their performances closely, we had the luxury of presenting our plans to them and getting to know them as individuals off the field at the alignment camps, and we are pleased with the enthusiasm they showed and willingness to learn.”

Springbok squad

Forwards: Joseph Dweba, Ben-Jason Dixon, Neethling Fouche, Frans Malherbe, Salmaan Moerat, Evan Roos, Andre-Hugo Venter, Phepsi Buthelezi, Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Koch, Bongi Mbonambi, Ntuthuko Mchunu, Ox Nche, Malcolm Marx, Franco Mostert, Kwagga Smith, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jasper Wiese; Backs: Aphelele Fassi, Ethan Hooker, Makazole Mapimpi, Siya Masuku, Grant Williams, Morne van den Berg, Jordan Hendrikse, Quan Horn, Edwill van der Merwe, Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, Manie Libbok, Faf de Klerk, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Andre Esterhuizen, Cheslin Kolbe, Handre Pollard