The Springbok coaches will be spending the next few hours making a list and checking it twice and it is surely going down to the wire in many spots. Whilst some tough choices await the Bok brain trust, their biggest head scratcher has to be squarely placed on their scrumhalf stocks. The squad features five scrum halves and it is likely that only 3 will get their tickets to France come Tuesday's squad announcement.
I will be releasing my predicted squad this evening so stay tuned to our socials for that. Before we get that far, lets take a look at what will likely unfold with the Springboks selection at 9.
Faf De Klerk
A World Cup starter in 2019, Faf is a key member of the Bok side. He offers defensive attributes and a tenacity that no other scrumhalf in the squad does. Faf is the go to when it comes to the Springbok war of attrition that they seem to regularly be involved in, likely by design. Faf was used behind Jaden in the 2022 Rugby Championship but he regained the jersey by the time the team toured North. Given a start against the All Blacks and an early entry to play at Ellis Park, coupled with the fact that he remained in SA the past week, he is a sure pick.
The pacy scrummy has taken every chance given to him this year and shown he can work well with Manie. Reinach started in the stellar win over the Wallabies in the season opener and was awarded a starting spot this past weekend. Reinach is also a member of the 2019 squad and the fastest ever hattrick scorer. Reinach brings a great speed to the Bok attack, whilst his tactical kicking abilities are very solid, even if it is a less noticed aspect of his game. He also plays his club rugby in France and his knowledge of the game there could be hugely beneficial. The amount of starting time provided to Cobus over the past 4 games (50%), he will surely fancy his chances of going to France.
Now come the really tough picks, each so deserving in their own right, making it impossible to pick between them, So in not particular order.
Jantjies was on the bench in the World Cup final and has been in the team ever since. He has spent almost a year in the squad without receiving any game time, after a dip in form in 2022. Jantjies wasted no time reminding the Bok coaches of his credentials though when he entered the fray in Buenos Aires on Saturday evening. He looked like he'd been playing all season long so far and slotted in seamlessly. Whilst many would argue he is out of favor, I would counter that by saying, he was selected to play over Jaden in Argentina. Read into that, what you will.
Grant got his first real taste of test match rugby this year and he looked set to really make a dent in the thinking around our 9 stocks. Earning bench rolls against the Wallabies and All Blacks, he was electric from the moment he came on. His trade mark sniping runs keeping all the defenders on their toes. Set to start against Los Pumas at Ellis Park, he had his game cruelly cut short with a head clash that has seen him sidelined for a minimum two week period to undergo concussion return to play protocols. The question now is whether or not he had done enough in his bench appearances to jump ahead of Jaden and Herschel? Or did his concussion rob him of the starting chance he needed to really make his case.
Jaden has not featured for the Boks this year. He was injured in the latter stages of the URC, he then tragically lost his father ahead of the trip to New Zealand. He has been available for the last two tests against Los Pumas but has not seen any game time. 26 players travelled to Argentina last week and Jaden was one of only 3 who didn't play. If we look back to 2022, Jaden was proving his worth to the Boks on the regular. He had a strong season and started the most test at 9. As a bit of a pointless extra, he is also the Boks most prolific goal kicker, boasting a 100% success rate having slotted 1/1. It is hard for me to see the Boks taking him to France without getting accurate data on where he is at, during a game. The coaches have said that they know what they have in him, they have been far more coy with whether what they know is enough to make a World Cup squad.
I feel like Cobus Reinach and Faf De Klerk are the two certainties at 9, it is really tough to pick the 3rd. My gut tells me it will be Grant Williams, who should be ready to play when we face Wales. He brings something different to the Boks and would be a great addition off the bench for many of the big clashes.
My brain tells me that it will be Herschel. This is likely as we know the Boks are already taking two players who are not fully fit in Pollard and Kolisi. A potential third could be Ox Nche, seeing them take further risks at 9 seems irresponsible. Herschel is fit, he played and he is an experienced member of the squad. All factors which could weigh in his favor. Add to that, the fact that he could form an attacking spine with Manie and Willemse, being familiar from club level.
Unfortunately I don't see Jaden making the cut, purely because of how the season has panned out for him. Without any game time since early May, he is now an unknown quantity. RasNaber are a calculated duo and it would surprise me to see them take Jaden, without any proof of concept prior to the squad naming.
For me I think we will see Faf, Cobus and Grant on that squad list come Tuesday. Do you agree? Let me know in the comments.