Boks shift gear to Test mode — who will crack the nod for Wallabies match?

The Springboks open their 2023 season against the Wallabies this weekend. PHOTO: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

The Springboks will shift into Test mode on Monday ahead of the start of the 2023 Rugby Championship and their opener against the Wallabies.

Jacques Nienaber’s men have a big season in front of them, with the Rugby World Cup also taking place in September and October in France and the Boks being defending champions.

It will thus be the goal to win as many matches as possible in the build-up to the World Cup defence even though the Boks will play different teams against the Wallabies on Saturday and All Blacks in New Zealand next week.

Loftus record
Momentum will be key in the Rugby Championship (as well as in the three additional warm-up games scheduled ahead of the tournament in France) so getting off to a good start against Eddie Jones’ men will be vital. And the Boks have a proud record at Loftus Versfeld that they’ll want to uphold.

In 47 Tests between the nations in South Africa, the Wallabies have won just 10 and at Loftus Versfeld the Boks have also been the dominant team.

In seven Tests between the countries in Pretoria, the Boks have lost just once at the home of the Bulls, a 44-31 defeat in August 2010.

Nienaber and director of rugby Rassie Erasmus will have set a number of specific goals for their team this weekend, among them: To shake off the rust having not played for a few weeks, to click back into Bok gear as quickly as possible having last played together since November last year, and to try find fluidity and momentum in their game.

Also, there are likely to be a few less experienced men at this level in the Bok team such as Manie Libbok at 10, perhaps the backs Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse, and Jean Kleyn at lock and Deon Fourie at either No 6 or back-up hooker, as well as No 8 Evan Roos, who’ll be closely watched and keen to impress.

Nienaber will name his captain for the match on Tuesday when the team is announced and it seems to be a choice between Lukhanyo Am and Duane Vermeulen, with Siya Kolisi sidelined because of injury. There is likely to be a different leader next week for the match against the All Blacks.

But it won’t only be a few of the “newcomers” who have a big Loftus Test ahead of them as the race for World Cup places is set to intensify over the coming weeks, but a few former regulars, too, such as Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Makazole Mapimpi, while fit-again lock RG Snyman also has a big few weeks ahead of him.

Also, who of the five scrumhalves in the squad — Faf de Klerk, Herschel Jantjies, Grant Williams, Cobus Reinach and Jaden Hendrikse — will get the first chance to get a tick behind their name?

Nienaber will name his matchday 23 on Tuesday.

The Citizen/ Jacques van der Westhuyzen