Springbok 31: Is this the perfect blend to win a World Cup?

Joe Leavey
06 September 2019

Share this article

There’s just something about the South Africa World Cup squad that has the look of a Webb Ellis Cup winning 31.

When the favourites – New Zealand – announced their squad last week some questioned whether a few of their key protagonists are perhaps a year past their best, but that is not seemingly an issue for the Springboks.

Other fancied teams like England and Wales have many strengths but have they got the composure to go all the way?

For South Africa there are touches of class all across the squad, and upwards momentum on which they’ve already bounced to Japan.

THE BACK ROW

Given South Africa’s historical propensity for producing monstrous, dominant, back rowers it’s no surprise that this was perhaps the hardest area in which former Munster boss Rassie Erasmus had to whittle his squad.

Five have made the cut – Pieter-Steph Du Toit, captain Siya Kolisi, Francois Louw, Kwagga Smith and Duane Vermeulen – not many teams would fancy facing any combination here.

Erasmus had his selection decision made easier by Ulster forward Marcell Coetzee’s injury a few weeks ago, desperate luck for a man who returned to form in style last season.

The same can be said of Toulouse’s Rynardt Elstadt – a classy operator who is the man to be cut, while Sale Sharks’ Du Preez brothers are both excellent players who did not even get a look in here.

ENGINE ROOM POWER

From one tale of embarrassing riches to another, Erasmus isn’t exactly lacking in the engine room either.

Four have travelled – Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert and RG Snyman – while Marvin Orie misses out.

There’s plenty of options but Erasmus looks likely to start with Mostert and Etzebeth, the two men named in an incredibly strong side to face Japan in the final warm-up.

Italy’s Pool B World Cup opponents can then choose to throw on the incredibly athletic Snyman while de Jager’s physicality and lineout prowess will come in handy when he gets his opportunity.

MIDFIELD COMBINATIONS

Looking at the midfield and it’s once again a case of strength and options for the Springboks, while also possessing one of the keys to their 31 with the versatile Frans Steyn’s selection enabling Erasmus to select three hookers, three scrum-halves and two No.10s.

Jesse Kriel started the 2015 Rugby World Cup as the preferred outside centre but looks to have lost his spot to Lukhanyo Am – who has just eight caps but has dug in at 13.

Damian de Allende should have the starting No.12 shirt to face off against a Sonny Bill Williams or Ryan Crotty versus New Zealand, while Steyn produced incredible rugby at both the 2007 and 2011 World Cups – what a story it would be if he has a big impact in Japan.

SCRUM-HALF CLASS

Three scrum-half berths? Three excellent talents, with the irrepressible Faf de Klerk leading the way and ably deputised by bolter Herschel Jantjies and in-form Northampton Saint Cobus Reinach.

Embrose Papier and Ivan van Zyl were second and third choice No.9s last year but have clearly fallen out of favour, while de Klerk’s control of a game and running threat make him a key dangerman.

Out to No.10 and Handre Pollard is enjoying a wonderful 2019, a man who clearly has the class to win a World Cup.

Backing him up though we have perhaps the Springboks’ most obvious chink – if Pollard goes down then the unpredictable Elton Jantjies or veteran Steyn will have to step up in a big, big way.


Cardiff City Stadium will play host to the 2020 Guinness PRO14 Final on June 20 as one of the most exciting days in the club rugby calendar comes to Wales!

General sale tickets are available from http://bit.ly/PRO14Cardiff2020 and prices start at just £13 for concessions and £26 for adults (subject to booking fees), that’s a 15% early bird discount. Family ticket (2 adults / 2 children) prices begin at £64 and fans are encouraged to buy early to get the best value tickets.

Share this article