Springboks team winners and losers as Rassie Erasmus stuns with picks for Wales showdown

Jared Wright
Springboks hooker Malcolm Marx and Sharks fly-half Siya Masuku.

Our winners and losers from the first Springboks team of the year.

Following the announcement of Rassie Erasmus’ first Springboks matchday squad of 2024 ahead of South Africa’s clash with Wales at Twickenham on Saturday, here are our winners and losers.

It is Erasmus’ first game back as South Africa head coach after taking on the job after serving as director of rugby between 2020 and 2023 when Jacques Nienaber was head coach.

With the match against Wales taking place outside of the official World Rugby international window, Erasmus is without several of his frontline Boks, with injuries and the unavailability of the Bulls players in the URC final further depleting his options.

Still, he has managed to select a strong team with 637 Test caps in the starting line-up, with 10 players from the 2023 World Cup final against New Zealand retained in the 23.

So, without further ado, here are our winners and losers from the selection.


Pieter-Steph du Toit

There was always going to be a change in captaincy with Siya Kolisi ineligible for this match due to club commitments and while he will link up with squad in the coming weeks, his tenure as Bok captain remains in the balance.

Meanwhile, Erasmus has thrown back to 2018, naming the same captain as he did for his very first game in charge of the Springboks as Pieter-Steph du Toit takes the armband for the second time in his career and the second time against Wales.

While Du Toit isn’t the biggest voice in the Bok changing room, when he does speak – everyone listens. Eben Etzebeth and Bongi Mbonambi were also in the running, but for a one-off Test, it is rather fitting that Du Toit gets the nod. A player who always gives his all, emptying the tank and is the old cliche of leading through his actions. He is already a Springbok great and one worthy of the leadership role.

Malcolm Marx

Saturday will mark 286 days since Malcolm Marx last played a rugby match as a knee injury after the pool stage match against Scotland brought his Rugby World Cup to a swift end.

It also caused him to miss the entire Japan Rugby League One season, and with the international season now upon us, there are no other opportunities for the hooker to get in some game time before the Ireland Series and Rugby Championship. Still, only the daft will question his inclusion in the team, as when he is on form, there simply isn’t a better hooker in world rugby. Marx has been a regular fixture in the Springboks team since 2017 and will be crucial to Erasmus for the remainder of the year.

Much like Tom Curry, it’s fantastic to see one of the best in the business back in action this weekend in their international colours.

Springboks: Shock call at fly-half while Malcolm Marx makes long-awaited return against Wales

Kwagga Smith

It was touch and go for a minute there for Kwagga Smith, whose Japanese season was cut short by injury, but the back-rower has returned from his setback ahead of schedule to pack down in the starting team against Wales.

Smith was unreal in the final against the All Blacks and starred off the bench throughout the knockout stages of the World Cup.

The clash against Wales allows him to stretch his legs ahead of the two Tests against Ireland and also gives him the rare opportunity to terrorise the opposition from the opening minute.

Vincent Koch

It has been a long season for tighthead prop Vincent Koch, who was sidelined for most of the Sharks’ struggles early on but ultimately was a driving force in their Challenge Cup success, with a masterful performance in the victory over Gloucester in the final.

Koch sustained an injury in the semi-final win over England at the World Cup, which denied him the opportunity of earning his 50th Test cap in the showpiece event, but he has worked his way back to full fitness and top form to finally reach the milestone.

And with it comes a rare start for the brilliant tighthead as, for just the 12th time in his international career, he has been named in the starting XV.

Lions debutants

It was a running joke in South African circles that while the rest of the URC franchises congratulated their Springbok involvements, the Lions wished staff happy birthday on team announcements day, but in 2024, that has changed.

The Lions were vastly improved this year and many of their players were rewarded for their form with a Springbok call-up and this team announcement day they have two players named in the starting line-up.

Jordan Hendrikse is a somewhat surprising inclusion in the team as he gets the nod at fly-half ahead of Manie Libbok, Siya Masuku and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu. However, his defensive capabilities in the number 10 channel has certainly been a deciding factor in his selection while he enjoyed a stellar run of form in the latter stages of the URC season.

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Meanwhile, he is joined by clubmate and speedster Edwill van der Merwe in making his Test debut. Van der Merwe was one of only two players who did not attend the Springbok alignment camps to be in the training squad for Wales but has certainly impressed the coaching staff enough to earn a first cap. With the injury crisis on the wing for the Boks, Van der Merwe has a massive opportunity against Wales.

Aphelele Fassi

After earning his previous three Test caps on the wing for the Springboks and being exiled from the squad since 2022, Aphelele Fassi gets just reward for his stellar form this season despite a poor showing from the Sharks in the URC with a first cap in his preferred role.

Erasmus hinted that had the Bulls failed to beat Leinster that Willie le Roux would be parachuted into the starting XV but in the end it is Fassi who gets the chance to make his mark and possibly lock in a more regular role in the squad.

Stormers debuts on the bench

There are two further debuts in line on the bench, with Stormers stars Ben-Jason Dixon and Feinberg-Mngomezulu getting the nod to feature against Wales.

Dixon has been used as the Stormers’ ‘fix-it’ man featuring in the back-row and at lock and fits the Bok forward mould superbly of simply getting the job done whether it be clearing out rucks, hammering ball carriers or colliding into the defence. While somewhat underrated right now, he has bright future ahead of him.

Meanwhile, one of South Africa’s brightest young talents, Feinberg-Mngomezulu will introduce himself to the big stage if given the opportunity on Saturday. The multi-skilled and simply sensational youngster has been likened to Damian Willemse, particularly with his versatility, and this is set to be his first step in what promises to be a glittering international career.


The Springbok team might well be stronger than what the WRU expected when organising this fixture, but in reality, Warren Gatland will get a lot from this match regardless of the final outcome.

It is a classy outfit, and ahead of the tour to Australia, he really couldn’t have asked for much better. It is a litmus test in many ways for the young Welsh outfit.

Wales team: Dewi Lake returns as Warren Gatland backs rookie nine against Springboks


Siya Masuku

After guiding the Sharks to Challenge Cup glory and enjoying an outstanding run of form, many predicted that Masuku would debut in some capacity against Wales. Alas, Erasmus seems to believe that it is at least a game too soon for the talented fly-half, but perhaps we will see him out in a Green and Gold jumper soon.

Manie Libbok

Sticking with the fly-half and it is somewhat surprising that Libbok has been named in the overall 23 but will be travelling with the squad to London for the fixture joined by RG Snyman, Neethling Fouche, Phepsi Buthelezi, Ethan Hooker, Quan Horn and Andre-Hugo Venter as a reserve.

Libbok struggled with form in the latter stages of the URC season and this could have been the game he could set the record straight, but perhaps he is being saved for the Ireland series? Only time will tell.

Neethling Fouche

Another Stormers star who has been overlooked for the game against Gatland’s charges after a superb run with his URC side is tighthead prop Fouche. It is not easy cracking into the Springbok front-row, highlighted by Koch and Frans Malherbe filling the two roles this weekend. Fouche might need to wait until the Portugal Test to make his bow.

Phepsi Buthlezi

You’d be hard-pressed to name a back-rower more like-for-like to Siya Kolisi than Phepsi Buthlezi, who many believed would be filling the Bok skipper’s void this weekend.

He is another who had a strong season despite the Sharks’ struggles and was simply outstanding in the victory over Gloucester in the final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. He will be among the travelling reserves for the fixture and surely there is a cap down the line for the star.

While Erasmus has given opportunities against Wales, it’s still clear that he is not handing out caps.

Andre-Hugo Venter

Had Marx not needed game-time, then there was certainly an opportunity for Erasmus to test the waters of his hooker depth and may well have done so against Wales.

The Bok head coach has highlighted the need to blood youth into the role this World Cup cycle, and Andre-Hugo Venter has been impressive with the Stormers this year and earned his call-up.

It would have been a gamble for a young hooker to feature in the Test, but with doubt surrounding how deep into the match Marx will be able to go, it is understandable that the Bok coaching team didn’t add to the risk with a rookie hooker playing an extended amount of minutes.

Quan Horn

The full-back jersey was seemingly there for the taking this week, and ultimately, Fassi won the race for it, with Lions’ star Quan Horn having his debut put on ice.

But with Willemse set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines and doubt around Le Roux’s fitness, Horn may yet don the Green and Gold this July.

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