100 days to Rugby World Cup kick-off: 5 key questions about the Boks

0
1865
South Africa coach Jacques Nienaber and captain Siya Kolisi. PHOTO: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile/Gallo Images

Wednesday marks 100 days to go to the Rugby World Cup in France. The Springboks will start the tournament as the defending champions and among the favourites to go all the way. There are, however, a number of questions about the Boks’ challenge and the players who’ll be heading to France.

Here we unpack the key questions about the Boks.

Pool play
While the Boks, as defending champions, will be among the bookies’ favourites to win a fourth World Cup trophy, they are in a difficult Pool B where any slip-up could cost them dearly.

Tonga and Romania shouldn’t pose too much of a problem for Jacques Nienaber’s men, though Tonga have given the Boks difficulties before, but it is Six Nations teams Scotland and Ireland who the Boks must be careful of.

Ireland have dominated much of world rugby since the last tournament in Japan and will also be among the favourites to win the title for the first time, while Scotland on their day have the players and game to upset anyone.

Captaincy
Siya Kolisi has been an inspired Bok leader since getting the job in 2018 and leading the Boks to World Cup glory in 2019, but there are now concerns about his fitness and readiness to lead the team in France.

An untimely knee injury and subsequent operation have put Kolisi’s participation in doubt which, should he miss the tournament, would be a massive blow to the Boks.

The other leadership options include Eben Etzebeth, who has led the Boks before, but he, too, is currently injured, Lukhanyo Am, Steven Kitshoff and Handre Pollard.

Kolisi is sure to miss the earlier Rugby Championship, so the Bok bosses could show their thinking in terms of captaincy as early as next month.

Lukhanyo Am
Lukhanyo Am is an option to lead the team if Siya Kolisi doesn’t make it. Picture: Gallo Images

 

Newcomers

It is expected that Nienaber and Co will back most of the players who did duty in Japan for the defence in France and that means there won’t be too many places available for World Cup newcomers.

But, the retirements of Beast Mtawarira, Schalk Brits and Francois Louw mean three “new” players will join the World Cup group. Ox Nche, Joseph Dweba and Jasper Wiese could be the newcomers to the squad to take over these places.

Canan Moodie
Winger Canan Moodie could be World Cup debutant later this year. Picture: Getty Images

But who else will squeeze their way in? Grant Williams and Jaden Hendrikse are new options at scrumhalf, and Manie Libbok at 10, while out wide, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie are also possible World Cup debutants.

Set to lose out
There will likely be a number of players who featured in Japan who’ll possibly lose their places in the squad bound for France, due to poor form, others players jumping the queue and maybe for other squad reasons.

Among the forwards, RG Snyman and Duane Vermeulen have a lot to do to crack the final squad, while in the backs, Warrick Gelant, Makazole Mapimpi, Elton Jantjies, Sbu Nkosi and Frans Steyn are probably in most danger of losing out.

Nienaber and Co will have many tough decisions to make, and who they pick in the outside back positions could be their toughest choice of all.

Duane Vermeulen and Frans Steyn
Duane Vermeulen and Frans Steyn. Picture: Gallo Images

Nienaber’s departure
The news that Jacques Nienaber will be leaving the Bok coaching position after the World Cup probably slipped out earlier than he or anyone at SA Rugby would have liked, but the cat is now out the bag.

There are probably positives and negatives regarding the news but one’s still got to wonder if it will play any role in how the coach goes about his business over the coming months, and whether it will impact the players at all.

There are almost sure to be questions about the coaching position leading up to and during the World Cup, most especially about who will take over — with the front-runners being current assistants Mzwandile Stick and Deon Davids.

The Citizen/Jacques van der Westhuyzen