With the first alignment camp done and dusted, we have an idea as to who the Springboks will rely on throughout the 2022 season, which commences with 3 tests against Wales, moves onto the Rugby Championship and then culminates in a difficult end of year tour in November. Currently still ranked number 1 in the World, the Boks have many World Cup winners at their disposal but there are some key areas of concern, particularly in light of the manner and style in which the Boks play the game.
Handre Pollard is the Springboks incumbent and 1st choice 10. He has proven he can perform at the top level and has given the Bok management no indication that they should look elsewhere for a replacement, despite a somewhat shaky season in 2021. Pollard however only returned from injury for Montpellier last weekend and is desperately in need of game time. He has also largely played second fiddle to Pablo Garbisi, the young Italian 10 who is on the rise and will need to overcome this hurdle in his drive to return to form.
Next in line is Elton Jantjies, a World Cup winner in his own right, the former Lions flyhalf has been spotted in the Cape Town stands numerous times in recent weeks owing to him undergoing his injury rehab down there. He has yet to take the field in 2022 and should he not return soon, will either be unavailable for the Boks or pushed into action without any real preparation under his belt. Putting on a strong showing against the All Blacks last year, Elton has failed to perform consistently for the Green & Gold and is not frequently used to run the show.
Outside of these two, Damian Willemse and Frans Steyn are capable of filing in at 10, but both are seemingly preferred as options at either center or fullback and used more often in the role of utility substitute than as a starter for the Boks.
Only Johan Goosen was called up to the alignment camp and he is also recovering from a long term injury, making him unavailable for the Boks at this stage. Jacques Nienaber interestingly also passing comment that Cheslin Kolbe would be considered for the role if necessary, a position he has occasionally filled for former club Toulouse in the Top 14. This hardly inspires confidence of a back up plan and to me really begs the question as to why Libbok was not at the very least included in the alignment camp as a precaution.
My money is on an S.O.S call to Morne Steyn if things don't go according to plan on the injury front.
Willie Le Roux has been protected by Jacques and Rassie for years now, but none more so than during 2021 when calls for him to be dropped were coming from all corners. Anyone who has watched 'Chasing the Sun' will know how vital a role Le Roux plays in the Boks attacking formations and maybe we shouldn't be so quick to dismiss his effectiveness for the Bokke, even if he does spill a high ball here and there. Outside of Willie though, there has been little opportunity for others to gain experience in the last line.
Again Willemse & Steyn are the utility replacement options for 15, but there are no specialists who have been deployed there in quite some time. 2021 looked like the year for Aphelele Fassi to break through into the Bok fold, and he was capped twice for them. However, both caps came on the wing. Fassi is an exciting talent and aptly named 'the weekend special' but he is also desperately in need of more game time in 2022 to build his experience ahead of the tournament in France.
Warrick Gelant was also left out in the cold fir the 1st alignment camp and will feel hard done by too. He has excelled for the Stormers and could provide the necessary back up and depth required for a realistic assault on back to back titles for the Boks.
lastly is Tyrone Green, who is plying his trade for Harlequins at the moment. He is an immensely talented player and also deserving of a look in. We haven't yet seen which of the overseas based players will take part in the alignment camps hosted by Felix Jones, but I truly hope he is one of them.
None of these options inspire confidence of a back up plan being in place for flyhalf specifically and fullback to a lesser extent. The younger players are in desperate need of test experience or we may face a situation where we start a test in the pool stages against the Irish with a player in a key play-making position who only has a handful of caps to his name.