Bokrometer: 11 hopefuls who pressed for Springbok call ups, including a rampaging rookie lock

Jared Wright
Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus and Bulls lock JF van Heerden.

Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus and Bulls lock JF van Heerden.

As the build-up to the international season continues, we look at the Springboks hopefuls pressing for higher honours with their club form.

Rassie Erasmus takes charge of the Springboks for a second time following Jacques Nienaber’s departure to Leinster after sealing back-to-back Rugby World Cup titles.

With the one-off Tests against Wales and Portugal, either side of the the two Tests against Ireland, Erasmus has a prime opportunity to inject the Springbok team with fresh, young talent. The Bok boss has not been shy in the past to give opportunities and will certainly be eager to test players in those two matches.

Following the weekends, Premiership and URC action, we highlight the performances that may have caught Erasmus’ eye.

In the pack

The entire starting Springboks pack from the Rugby World Cup final is over the age of 30, which means that Erasmus will be looking to get more youth involved up front, and several stars are putting their hands up.

Hooker Johan Grobbelaar is making a strong claim for a maiden Test cap, and despite the Bulls’ defeat to Munster, the front-rower lay down another marker. The 26-year-old has been incredibly consistent in the set-pieces, and that continued despite one hiccup and fierce competition from the Munster jumpers. He crossed the whitewash for his fifth URC try this season and impressed around the pitch yet again.

Staying with the Bulls where rookie lock JF van Heerden has rampaged through his first few caps for the Pretoria-based side, and while he will be off to Australia to represent the Junior Boks, he is a prospect that will be closely monitored during the short and long-term. He has been thrown into the deep end with the Bulls and hasn’t even hinted at sinking and after another performance beyond his years, perhaps a cap may come sooner than some may expect.

Lastly, from the Bulls, captain Elrigh Louw continues to press his claim forward for the Springboks back-row, which is flooding over with options. The powerhouse loose forward could find himself on the blindside for the Boks and at number eight, especially if his strong performances continue following Duane Vermeulen’s retirement.

Evan Roos also had another standout shift in an otherwise poor Stormers performance as they fell to a defeat at the hands of Ospreys while teammate and lock Ruben van Heerden made a strong impact off the bench as he pushes for a maiden Test cap.

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Staying in the congested back-row, Lions stars Emmanuel Tshituka and Francke Horn both put in stunning shifts against Leinster on Saturday. Perhaps the free-running loose forwards may not fit into Erasmus’ mould, having missed the Springbok alignment camps, but both showed off their tremendous work rates in a memorable victory.

In the Premiership, Jasper Wiese put in a solid defensive shift for Leicester Tigers, a performance that Erasmus will appreciate, but two other number eights could be pressing the World Cup-winning forward for a spot in the Bok squad.

Former Junior Bok Juarno Augustus shared the pitch with Wiese and played a crucial role in Northampton’s 40-17 victory over Leicester. The 26-year-old impressed on both sides of the ball, making ten tackles and gained over 60 metres from his 14 carries in a powerful performance in the East Midlands derby.

The Du Preez brothers have been called up to the Springboks squad regularly since Nienaber and Erasmus returned to South Africa, but neither has been able to cement a regular spot in the squad. However, things may change in 2024, particularly if Jean-Luc continues with his current form, while his versatility is always a bonus. Last weekend against Harlequins, he made an impressive 19 tackles without missing any and was just as busy with the ball in hand, making 14 carries, beating six defenders and won two turnovers.

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In the backs

Erasmus is set to be without many of his first-choice nines and tens for his first game back in charge against Wales, but he will have been pleased with the performance at Ellis Park from the Lions’ halfbacks against Leinster.

Unless the Lions make the URC final, their players will be available for the Test against Wales and Twickenham, and Sanele Nohamba has been tipped to earn a first Test cap in the fixture. He could start the match alongside Morne van den Berg, particularly after the pair ripped through Leinster’s defence in their 44-12 victory.

They could be joined in that squad to face Wales by teammate and full-back Quan Horn who continues to go from strength to strength in the number 15 jumper.

Horn crossed the whitewash in the win over Leinster and hardly put a foot wrong in yet another compelling performance. He has the likes of Willie Le Roux, Damian Willemse and others ahead of him for the Springbok jersey, but if he continues on this trajectory, he is bound to get a shot at some stage.

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