Despite South Africa not playing a competitive match since the 2019 Rugby World Cup final win over England, they are still considered to be one of the best sides in the world and have a huge pool to choose from, with both already capped and potential Springbok players in the future.
The team that former Head Coach Rassie Erasmus built was near perfect by ensuring that each position was stacked with world-class talent. He found the ideal balance between incorporating experienced players with younger, up-and-coming stars.
Since the end of the Rugby World Cup, just three players in the South Africa squad have retired from the game – Tendai Mtawarira, Schalk Brits and Francois Louw, making selecting a squad to face the British and Irish Lions is as hard as ever. Competition for places in the team is fierce and several brilliant players are sure to be disappointed when left out.
South Africa face the Lions just once every 12 years, meaning they have to get their squad selection just right in order to win the series. There needs to be a mixture of players that have been in high-pressure situations before that can control the game and players that are young, ambitious and can add a new dimension. With that in mind, here are five uncapped Springboks that are in with a shout to make the squad for the British and Irish Lions Tour and earn their first appearances.
At just 23-years-old, Sharks fullback Aphelele Fassi has burst onto the South African rugby scene and has made huge progress under his coaches Robert du Perez and more recently Sean Everitt.
Fassi has made 30 appearances for the Sharks and has scored eight tires. His biggest strength, however, is his ability to create chances for those around him to get in space and score. Fassi has linked up perfectly with Sharks’ wingers Makazole Mapimpi, JP Pietersen and Sbu Nkosi over the past few years and has thrived off working alongside some very influential current Springboks such as Lukhanyo Am.
Aphelele Fassi has pace to burn and is clever with the ball in hand, always running with his head up looking to distribute to his teammates. He weighs 87kg and stands at 6ft 2inches, making him a strong fullback who is reliable in the air and can break tackles in attack. Competition is tough at fullback for the hosts, with Willie Le Roux, Warrick Gelant and Damian Willemse currently in the team but Fassi has the ability to get into the team and could stay there for years to come if he continues in good form.
Stormers second-row John Dave Schickerling is another potential Springbok that will have to work very hard to get into the squad, and certainly deserves to earn his first cap in the near future.
Second-row is debatably South Africa’s most well-covered position in the team with Eben Etzebeth, RG Snyman, Franco Mostert and Lood de Jager all in the current line-up. Schickerling, however, is younger than all four of the current second-rows at 25-years-old and therefore has a lot of rugby ahead of him.
Lood de Jager and JD Schickerling on the move during the Springboks' afternoon training session in London. pic.twitter.com/8FkuilOwfE
— Springboks (@Springboks) October 29, 2018
Schickerling is a towering 6ft 8 and weighs in at 119kg. He played three times for SA Schools, five times for Springbok U20s and twice for the South Africa ‘A’ side, plus having already made 37 appearances for the Stormers. In fact, in 2014, the youngster recovered from a broken neck, to continue his gradual rise to a potential Springbok in 2021.
Having performed at the highest level available to him so far in his career; Super Rugby/Currie Cup, the young man just has one more box to tick.
Utility back Wandisile Simelane is somewhat of a coach’s dream because he just loves getting on the scoresheet. He has scored three tries in his first 10 games for the Johannesburg Lions and scored an incredible eight tries in 10 games for the U20 Springboks.
Now 23, Simelane is one of your traditional powerhouse centres. Although not slow, Simelane’s best use lies in hitting hard lines and breaking the gain line to get his side onto the front foot.
He weighs 90kg and has a big fend on him that allows him to open his body up and bring his teammates into the game. Another strength is his support play. Simelane bags tries because he simply never gives up and is always willing to be on the shoulder of the ball carrier. Simelane, lined with the likes of Damian de Allende or Lukhanyo Am, could be a match made in heaven for the Springboks.
Another potential Springbok from the Lions that has a lot of promise is 22-year-old loose forward Vincent Tshituka. Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tshituka signed with the Lions after graduating from Northcliff High School in Gauteng.
His preferred position is flanker and at 107kg and 6ft 5, he makes a very explosive back-row player. Tshituka loves to carry the ball, often looking for the quick offload, and almost always breaks the tackle with a headstrong attitude to never go down. Under the wing of recent Sharks signing and World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi, Tshituka could really push his game to the next level.
In defence, Tshituke is quick off the line and is great at plugging holes. So far he has made 17 appearances for the Lions and will be a key player for them going into the Rainbow Cup. If Tshituka can maintain his form on the pitch in the coming months, he may be looking at a call-up to the international level sooner rather than later.
The last potential Springbok on the list is Grahamstown-born Rosco Specman. For the 2019 World Cup in Japan, Rassie Erasmus took just three wingers with him in Makazole Mapimpi, Cheslin Kolbe and Sbu Nkosi.
While all three did an exceptional job and have been pivotal for both club and country of late, the Springboks have been struggling to nail down the fourth winger spot in the squad since the banning of Aphiwe Dyanti.
Although there are a lot of good wingers in South Africa, arguably the best option for the Springboks is Cheetahs’ Rosko Specman. Specman may be turning 32-years-old this year but he has some of the purest raw talents that SA has seen in years.
Specman has played an amazing 150 times for the South Africa 7s team, scoring 380 points and winning bronze at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. He played 7s until 2018 and since has been involved with the Blue Bulls and the Free State Cheetahs.
He is one of the quickest players in the game and has one of the most deadly sidesteps around. His footwork allows him to create space for himself and his teammates and can work a try-scoring opportunity from nothing. The four years playing 7s has also provided him with an incredible work rate and very strong fitness levels, both of which would be of use to the Springboks during a tight-scheduled Lions Tour.
To the surprise of many, Specman remains a potential Springbok to this day and unfortunately may not get many appearances in the green and gold jersey but would be a powerful asset to have in the squad for a few years to come.
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