British and Irish Lions series bolters – South Africa

With the British and Irish Lions Series to South Africa less than a year away, LWOSRugby takes a look at the potential bolters for the tour. First up, it’s the Springboks.

The Forwards

Jaco Coetzee. 24. 108kg. Back Row. 0 Test caps.

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The strength and depth that South Africa boasts in the back row is frankly frightening and makes this a bold prediction. World Cup winners Siya Kolisi, Duane Vermuelen and the best player in the world Pieter-Steph du Toit are likely to continue as the starting back row. The retirement of Francois Louw, however, has opened up a spot on the bench and Jaco Coetzee is more than a mere pretender to the throne.

A dynamic and aggressive ball-carrying flanker in the mould of… well, every South African flanker that’s ever played the game really, Coetzee also boasts a deceptive turn of pace, strength over the ball and is a lineout option. His versatility means he can cover six, seven, and eight and might be an ideal impact substitute as part of Rassie and Jacques’ ‘Bomb Squad’.

Choosing Jaco Coetzee ahead of players such as Marcel Coetzee, Dan and Jean-Luc du Preez, Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Arno Botha (all of whom have Springbok experience) would certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons. However, with ferocious performances in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup over the last few seasons, Coetzee has played himself into deserved contention.

The Backs

Curwin Bosch. 23. 83kg. Fly Half. 2 Test caps.

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Curwin Bosch has been in and around the Springbok discussion for so long now that it almost doesn’t feel right to call him a ‘bolter’. Yet, with only 2 caps to his name his international career is still very much in its infancy.

In 2020 Bosch has come of age. Backing from his coaches has allowed him to finally settle at his preferred position of fly-half and he is reaping the rewards. Arguably, already South Africa’s best tactical kicker, Bosch has added a few more strings to his bow. The defensive frailties that have hitherto stalled his progression are slowly vanishing and as his confidence has grown he has become a top quality ball-playing fly half (something of a rarity in South Africa).

Pollard and Jantjies look set to be the preferred flyhalves for the Lions series but an injury to either would bring Bosch right into the fold – probably ahead of the Damian Willemse who is currently suffering the same ‘fly-half vs full-back’ identity crisis that haunted Bosch not long ago.

The Wildcard

Aphelele Fassi. 22. 87kg. Full Back. 0 Test caps.

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Many in the northern hemisphere have not heard the name Aphelele Fassi. Get well acquainted – it’s a name you’ll be hearing a lot over the next decade.

This year Fassi burst onto the Super Rugby scene with dazzling performances against the Jaguares and Highlanders. He ended the curtailed season with the second most meters gained (619) as well as eight line breaks, 22 tackle busts and three tries to his name. So impressive has he been this year that the South African rugby zeitgeist is tipping him to be the next big thing.

Fassi’s talent may be raw, but it is undeniable. His pace is electrifying and he was to play in the Lions series he would be the fastest player on the pitch (yes… even ahead of Johnny May). Complimenting his speed is his footwork and vision – a scintillating cocktail of attributes that have made Fassi particularly adept at finding holes where none should exist. A potent kicking game, honed from a school career at fly-half, makes Fassi a more rounded player than one might predict.


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