With the June Test-window now just a few weeks away, I’ve selected a few “belters” who could potentially make for surprise inclusions in Allister Coetzee’s Springbok squad. These are players whom I believe have performed consistently well throughout the Super Rugby season, and who deserve a shot on the big stage. They may not be as “flash” as some other players, but these men have certainly done enough to warrant selection against the French in the upcoming series.
What a season this South African dirt-trekker has had! The former Kings, Sharks and Bulls fullback nearly quite the game altogether last year after being omitted from the Southern Kings’ extended Super Rugby squad, before Gert Smal offered the talented 28-year-old a lifeline in Cape Town. Fast-forward a few months and Marais has established himself as the Stormers’ number one No 15 in 2017, after a few sparkling displays. His awesome offloads, solid “D” and long-range boot helped the Cape-based outfit to an impressive start in Super Rugby, before their recent wobble. Marais’s tenacity and grit will stand the Bokke in good stead this June.
Some would argue that bracketing Leyds as a “Bok Bolter” would be a little harsh considering his form over the past couple of seasons. Nonetheless, the wider South African rugby fraternity does not seem to rate this winger-cum-fullback as “Springbok material” – I beg to differ. The man has some serious skills (remember THAT offload against the Chiefs at Newlands?) and, having plied his trade in Australia with the Western Force and Perth Spirit (in the NRC), the 24-year-old has some solid experience.
The Sharks centre has made the no. 13 berth his own this season, after some superb outings. He is certainly on Allister Coetzee’s radar (having been involved in a wider Bok training squad earlier on in the year), and an appearance in June, whether it’s as a starter or impact-sub, should go a long way to advancing Am’s quest to become a more complete player.
I seriously rate this player. He may be on the short side for a loosehead at 1.73m and weighing in at just 105kg, but surely it is time that the reign of the perennially uninspiring Beast Mtawarira was ended. What he may lack in size and strength, the HTS Louis Botha product makes up for in raw dynamism, and a surprising turn of pace. Nche was named Currie Cup Player of the Season last year after his bulldozing displays for the Cheetahs, and the 21-year-old has surely done enough to warrant selection in 2017.
The Southern King has put in some fantastic shifts at openside flank as his franchise continues to punch above their weight this season. After nine rounds of Super Rugby, Cloete has racked up 154m (comprising of 39 ball-carries), made 94 tackles (the second-most in the competition) and has beaten 10 defenders in his 547-minutes of game-time. He’s sure to be snapped up by another province before the Kings’ imminent departure from the tournament at the end of the year, and some Bok experience could do wonders for his future.