Winners and losers from the Springboks’ 33-man Rugby World Cup squad

Jared Wright
Winners and losers from the Springboks Rugby World Cup squad announcement including Grant Williams, Siya Kolisi, Jacques Nienaber, Handre Pollard and Lukhanyo Am.

Injuries and form has cost a few Springboks their players while others have capitlised on their opportunity to make the Rugby World Cup squad.

Springboks head coach Jacques Nienaber has named the 33-man squad that will represent South Africa at Rugby World Cup 2023.

The depth that the defending world champions have meant there would always be several winners and losers as Nienaber and his coaching team cut his group to just 33.

Here are our Springboks winners and losers from the squad announcement.


Siya Kolisi

The Springboks captain has recovered just in time for the World Cup.

It’s huge news for the team, who have lost several leaders in the squad ahead of the tournament.

Siya Kolisi is a world-class player and has been sorely missed in the Springboks’ loose trio throughout the year.

Deon Fourie

Deon Fourie’s selection is a massive show of faith from the coaching staff, who are backing him to cover the back-row and, more importantly, hooker.

The veteran forward certainly deserves his spot and has had a long journey to becoming the oldest Springboks’ debutant last July.

Duane Vermeulen

Fair play to the veteran number eight as he is set to make his third World Cup appearance.

Vermeulen admitted that he considered hanging up his boots after the 2019 Rugby World Cup but has stayed on and looks set to be a key player for the Springboks once again.

Grant Williams and Jaden Hendrikse

Nienaber had an arduous task of narrowing his scrum-halves down and could have simply gone with the three that won the World Cup four years ago.

However, Grant Williams and Jaden Hendrikse forced Nienaber’s hand through their domestic and international form.

Hendrikse is picked off the back of no international rugby this year. Meanwhile, Williams was knocked out in the opening minute of his first minute in the starting XV.

The Springbok coach has backed the inexperienced pair, and we are likely to see just how versatile they are in France.

Williams is likely to feature on the wing at some point during the tournament, while Hendrikse could well feature at fly-half and kick for poles considering just one fly-half is in the squad.

Manie Libbok

The only recognised fly-half in the squad following the injury to Handre Pollard, Manie Libbok has an onerous responsibility on his shoulders at the World Cup.

The 26-year-old only earned his first start for the national side earlier this year but will likely be the man Nienaber turns to for the number 10 jersey in the big pool stage games against Ireland and Scotland.

After two stellar seasons with the Stormers, Libbok is more than up to the task but it will be a mighty challenge.

Andre Esterhuizen

After narrowly missing out on the 2019 Rugby World Cup squad, Andre Esterhuizen cracks the final 33 this time around.

He has been in incredible form for Harlequins and made the most of his chances for the Springboks this year. A deserved inclusion, even if it is because of the injuries.

The abrasive and skilful centre is more than deserving of his opportunity.

Makazole Mapimpi

The popular winger received one of the biggest cheers when his name was read out after he rose to popularity during the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Mapimpi’s place in the squad was under pressure, but the coaching staff has backed the veteran winger to thrive in France.

Jean Kleyn

Jean Kleyn represented his adoptive country, Ireland, at the 2019 Rugby World Cup but will don a different shade of green in 2023.

The robust Munster lock became eligible for his country of birth, South Africa, again and has forced his way into one of the Springboks’ most hotly contested positions.

It’s an incredible achievement for the tighthead lock who seemingly gave up on his dream of representing the Green and Gold when he debuted for Ireland but will now go one step further and pull on the iconic Bok jersey on rugby’s biggest stage.


Handre Pollard

Injuries are part of the sport, and few will understand that more than Pollard, who barely played for the Springboks after the 2015 Rugby World Cup until 2018.

The fly-half has had his fair share of setbacks, but this one will hurt the most.

He will have been eager to go back-to-back with the Springboks, and at the age of 29, he was arguably in the prime and form of his career before injury struck.

It’s not just a personal blow but one for the team, as he was crucial to their success in the 2019 Rugby World Cup and two years later with the British and Irish Lions.

Since then, the Springboks have also lost Morne Steyn and Frans Steyn to retirement, while fellow 2019 World Cup winner Elton Jantjies has fallen out of favour with his off-field antics.

Now, the side will go into the tournament without an experienced international fly-half.

Lukhanyo Am

Much like his fly-half, injury has ended Lukhanyo Am’s hopes of representing his country at the World Cup.

Am has been a crucial member of the Springboks squad since 2018 and was pivotal to the side’s attack and defence.

On form, the outside centre is simply world-class and had he not got injured last year, he would have been a strong contender for the World Rugby Player of the Year Award; he was that good.

Again, his absence is a huge blow for the South Africans, with Jesse Kriel, the only other outside centre in the squad.

This means that Canan Moodie and Damian Willemse are likely to fill in the role as well as regular inside centre Damian de Allende.

Lood de Jager

A third 2019 Rugby World Cup and British & Irish Lions winner ruled out of the Springboks’ title defence in France.

De Jager has been ever-present in the Springbok pack since Victor Matfield’s retirement and misses the World Cup through illness.

It’s another cruel blow for the forward who started the final against England four years ago and was forced off early in the match through injury.

Herschel Jantjies

The Springboks have opted to pick four scrum-halves for the Rugby World Cup, which does not include Herschel Jantjies.

Like Am, Pollard and De Jager, Jantjies won the World Cup and British and Irish Lions series with the Springboks, but unlike his teammates, he is currently fit and available.

Unfortunately for the number nine, he has slipped down the pecking order with the Test selectors, with Faf de Klerk, Hendrikse, Cobus Reinach, and Williams preferred.

The competition just forced Jantjies out of contention.

Thomas du Toit

The Bath-bound prop will be told to keep himself fit and firing as he did in 2019 when he received a call-up during the pool stages of the tournament.

Like in 2019, Du Toit has missed the initial 33-man squad with fellow ‘swing prop’ Trevor Nyakane preferred.

The depth in the Springboks’ prop department makes it incredibly difficult to break through, but if South Africa do sustain an injury in the build-up to or during the World Cup, they do have an excellent replacement for both sides of the scrum ready and waiting.

Joseph Dweba

The Springboks coaching staff have taken the gamble of just two hookers in their initial squad, with veteran forward Fourie set to cover for Malcolm Marx and Bongi Mbonambi.

The gamble means that Stormers’ hooker Joseph Dweba has missed the final cut and will likely be on standby for the Springboks.

Dweba improved for the Stormers throughout the season and helped the side reach the United Rugby Championship final.

All his improvements, however, were not enough to seal a place in the squad.

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