Jasper Wiese banned: The RIDICULOUS list of potential Springboks replacements at Rassie Erasmus’ disposal

Jared Wright
A split image of Evan Roos, Elrigh Louw, Kwagga Smith and Jasper Wiese.

We dive deep into the options Rassie Erasmus has at number eight.

Jasper Wiese is set to miss a large chunk of the Springboks season through suspension after copping a six-match ban following his red card in his final appearance for Leicester Tigers.

The number eight looked to be the straightforward replacement for Duane Vermeulen – who hung up his boots following the Rugby World Cup last year – but Springboks boss Rassie Erasmus will be without the abrasive back-rower for the Ireland series and the start of the Rugby Championship.

Luckily for Erasmus, he has a host of options at his disposal, both capped and uncapped at international level, many of which vary in styles, too, creating a healthy selection headache.

With this in mind, we run through the potential candidates to replace Wiese taking a look at the front runners, wild cards and everything in between.

Front runners

Evan Roos on the charge for the Springboks against Wales

The last time the Springboks played a Test match without Wiese or Vermeulen packing down at the back of the scrum was back in the 2022 November internationals when South Africa tackled England in a game outside of the official World Rugby window.

On that day, Evan Roos started in the number eight jumper, helping the Springboks to a 27-13 victory over the Red Rose in what proved to be Eddie Jones’ final Test in charge of England.

Roos is rediscovering his sensational form that earned him a Springbok call-up and while he does still have the odd moment of red-mist, he is still amongst the front runners for the number eight jumper. He has also added to his game with stints on the side of the scrum and could become an important player for the side during this World Cup cycle.

The Stormers back-rower missed out on the 2023 World Cup but one of the stars of that tournament will fancy his chances of getting into the starting jumper, namely Kwagga Smith. The turnover machine was sublime off the bench for the Boks throughout the tournament but could now start matches for the side in the number eight shirt as he did against Georgia and the British and Irish Lions in 2021. That would result in a bit of a re-jig to the bench, but Smith is more than capable of shining from the onset.

Another capped Springboks who will fancy his chances as a front-runner to fill the void is Bulls star Elrigh Louw, who has enjoyed a stellar run of form in the United Rugby Championship. He, too, offers a handy option on the side scrum, where he is likely to feature more in the years to come, but he is comfortable at the back of the pack, too. Like Roos, he would also offer a similar ball-carrying threat and airtight defence that Wiese provides and, out of the three, is arguably the best lineout jumper.

Smith edges ahead of the lot with his breakdown abilities and while all four may be unavailable for the clash against Wales, his ability in the rucks could be hugely influential against Ireland.

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In the mix

There is certainly no drop-off in quality as we dive deeper into the Springboks’ depth chart as Bulls sensation Cameron Hanekom could follow Roos in getting a first cap after a sublime breakthrough season.

He has had his injury struggles but frankly, he looks the real deal already. His inclusion in the alignment camps means that he has piqued the interest of the selectors at least, and with an already well-rounded game, he is being tipped to be Vermeulen’s long-term successor.

Meanwhile, the Sale Sharks twins, Jean-Luc du Preez and Dan du Preez, are always on the Springboks radar having both earned caps under Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber. However, Dan’s injury is likely to rule him out but in his absence at Sale, Jean-Luc has thrived in the number eight jumper. He is bound to get more chances in the squad going forward and perhaps this is his chance to cement his place.

On the fringe

Two players that may well be on the fringe by proxy of their performances but also their availability against Wales are Sharks loose forward Phepsi Buthelezi and Lions star Francke Horn. If fit, the former will certainly be available for the match and the latter too, if the Lions fail to reach the URC final.

Buthelezi is another whose future looks destined to be on the side of the scrum, but a strong showing against Wales may do his ambitions as a Bok number eight the world of good.

Meanwhile, Horn has the running game and work-rate akin to ex-Lions and Springboks skipper Warren Whiteley, who was backed in the Bok squad during Erasmus’ first tenure as head coach before injury struck. He was not involved in the first Springbok alignment camp, but perhaps the Wales games provide him a look-in and a chance to prove himself.

Finally, another Bull is in with a chance as Mpilo Gumede has enjoyed a strong debut season since making the shift from the Sharks, also earning an invite to the first alignment camp.

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Outside bets

Hacjivah Dayimani Stormers v Bulls URC 2023 - PA.jpg

It is well-reported that the Springboks staff has overlooked Stormers star Hacjivah Dayimani, which has resulted in him exploring his options and could potentially be heading abroad to join Siya Kolisi at Racing 92 next season. But still, the Stormers’ end-of-season run-in could force Erasmus’ hand.

Meanwhile, Juarno Augustus may well have finally played his way into the Test reckoning after a standout season for Northampton Saints. He won’t be available for the clash against Wales but will be against Ireland and the Rugby Championship. He is another bruising carrier, and his work around the breakdown has only improved since moving to the Premiership.

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Deon Fourie could also fill the position depending on his fitness for the upcoming internationals and could provide a lethal breakdown double threat with Smith.

Wild cards

You never know what to expect with an Erasmus coaching staff, and when you start to look at the versatile options at his disposal, then the list starts to get out of hand quickly.

Still, Wiese’s Tigers teammate Hanro Liebenberg could get a surprise call-up as could Exeter Chief Jacques Vermeulen with both players enjoying fine seasons despite their side’s failure to make the Premiership semi-finals while Ruan Ackermann has been consistently excellent for an underperforming Gloucester side.

The Tshituka brothers, Emmanuel and Vincent, have been brilliant for the Lions and Sharks, respectably, but there is still some doubt around their availability for South Africa.

Meanwhile, Pieter-Steph du Toit has packed down at number eight throughout his season in Japan, while Siya Kolisi recently did the same for Racing 92. The experienced pair would be solid options in a one-off Test, but with Wiese out for so many matches, a more out-and-out number eight is surely a better shout.

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