Springboks team winners and losers as ‘exceptional’ duo make history and in-form man misses out again

Dylan Coetzee
Split with Springboks Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel and Thomas du Toit

Split with Springboks Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel and Thomas du Toit

It is not very often at all that Rassie Erasmus sticks to the same starting XV, let alone matchday 23, but that is the case for the second Test against Ireland in Durban on Saturday.

With much to unpack after the esteemed coach decided to back the same side as last weekend, here are our winners and losers from the selection.

Winners

Centre pairing

What a moment it is for Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel who run out as a midfield partnership for the 30th Test, taking them above the legendary duo of Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie. The pair of double Rugby World Cup winners have been exceptional in Springboks colours throughout their careers and have been at the heart of recent success namely the 2023 title in France. Interestingly De Allende features in two of the top four most experienced centre pairings, underlining his longevity in the 12 shirt.

Rassie Erasmus

The Springboks starting XV has a total of 990 caps which makes it the most experienced team the country has ever selected, surpassing the side that won the World Cup final last year.

The decision to go unchanged shows the coach’s belief in a line-up that he will no doubt expect to improve from last weekend. Credit must go to Erasmus who even by selecting a powerful side is not negating the growth of future stars, with Salmaan Moerat, Gerhard Steenekamp and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu all benefiting greatly from being part of the entire series.

Erasmus has earned more credit than he needs to use for Springboks fans but irrespective of that it feels like backing the same side is the correct decision.

Frans Malherbe

One of the few players whose place may have been slightly in question after Ireland’s Andrew Porter put up a good shift against the mammoth tighthead. However, Erasmus has asked him to go again and he reaches his own milestone in the process by passing Jannie du Plessis as the Springboks prop with the third most starts (59), behind Os du Randt (75) and Tendai Mtawarira (102).

The veteran has been a world-class scrummager for a very long time and he will be doing everything in his power to register an improved performance in the set-piece.

Kwagga Smith

The tireless Springbok keeps the number eight jumper after some wobbles in his last performance, particularly when receiving kick-offs, but still added value in his typically busy manner.

We think it is a great show of loyalty to offer the double World Cup winner another chance and he certainly is the kind of player that will meticulously prepare to make up for some of his errors last weekend.

It is a big game for Smith in the context of where the number eight jersey lies within the squad.

Handre Pollard

Last weekend was proof that he is in fact human and does feel the nerves as the veteran was woeful in front of goal. Of course, his exploits at last year’s World Cup give him a great deal of credit to work with which is why he gets the nod again.

The absolute minimum for Pollard this weekend is to return to form when kicking for goal. With regards to the new attacking system, it is something that will take time to settle and while it may not be a perfect fit for the mature fly-half, Tony Brown’s coaching and attention to detail could see Pollard coming out of his shell on attack.

He is typically a big game player and usually has impressive temperament so expect Pollard to return in a big way this weekend.

Bomb Squad

No changes tend to mean most things worked and that was the case for the replacements who literally scrummed Ireland out of the game, much to the disdain of Matt Williams who feels six forwards are too many on the bench.

The bottom line is that it worked beautifully and has long been a hallmark of Erasmus’ Boks so why would that change? The balance is spot on with the two locks just adding further power to the scrum while the backline duo of Grant Williams and Feinberg-Mngomezulu are pretty much tailor-made for the tactic.

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Losers

Vincent Koch

Mr Incredible was just that when he came off the bench and got down to business. In many ways, it could be argued that he deserved to start but in the same breath the majority of his Test career has been coming on in the second period and changing the game.

The reality is that Malherbe is not going to add nearly as much dynamism as Koch, making the latter far more suited off the bench. Koch still has a massive role to play.

Thomas du Toit

The Bath man’s time will come this year for the Springboks and he can definitely count himself unlucky to miss out again. Unfortunately Steenekamp was outstanding off the bench and will focus on closing out the series so there was no need to re-introduce Du Toit.

He has to wade through the impressive depth in his position but he will be given his shot.

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Evan Roos

The Stormers man would have been looking at Smith’s shaky kick-offs receipts and maybe thinking he had a chance to be involved this week but it is not to be.

It is fair to offer Smith another chance as Roos’ game is still developing with the discipline issue probably a chief concern when planning for a tightly-contested game. It will be a tough one to take after a solid outing against Wales but, like Du Toit, his time will come again.

Manie Libbok

The fly-half must be looking at the attacking system thinking he is perfect for it and in many ways he is but the stone-cold reality is that he has used up all his credit because of his erratic goal-kicking and as a result must wait his turn.

One feels he will get another shot to prove himself but no doubt he will be feeling the youngsters breathing down his neck – some may feel Feinberg-Mngomezulu is already ahead of Libbok in this regard.

Ireland

Injuries to Craig Casey and Dan Sheehan do not help the Irish cause against the most experienced Springboks side in history.

The team fought hard last week but were battered in a bruising Test. Credit must be given for their fight to bring the scores close but it will take a massive effort to elevate that to levels high enough to beat the Springboks.

Make no mistake Ireland is world-class and has every chance to win but it will need to be near perfect.

READ MORE: Springboks: Rassie Erasmus makes history with selection for Ireland clash as 990 caps in starting XV