Growing injury list affects squad balance for Wales Test

Cheslin Kolbe is the latest name Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus must add to a growing injury list. | BackpagePix

Cheslin Kolbe is the latest name Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus must add to a growing injury list. | BackpagePix

Published Jun 11, 2024


Mike Greenaway

In an ideal world, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus would send a youthful combination to play Wales in London on June 22 so that he can keep his big guns fresh for the first Test against Ireland but it is not as simple as that.

A mounting injury list that yesterday added the name of Cheslin Kolbe, and the unavailability of Bulls players, plus those based in Europe, means the team to play at Twickenham will have to contain several senior players, including Eben Etzebeth, given the dwindling depth at lock.

Kolbe has been released by Erasmus to have an examination on the knee niggle he picked up during his Japanese club season.

Celimpilo Gumede, left, is the latest callup to the Springboks. | Backpagepix

While Kolbe has left the camp, there is a newcomer in Bulls loose forward Celimpilo Gumede, who has been released to train with the Boks because he is not going to feature in the semi-final against Leinster.

If we go back to the start of Erasmus’s tenure at the Boks in 2018, he took a B-side to Washington, also to play Wales, funnily enough, while keeping his powder dry for the imminent arrival of Eddie Jones’s England.

The match against Wales was lost but the Boks won the series against the English. Erasmus’s combination for Wales is likely to be a mixture of the old and the new.

Looking at the back three, Willie le Roux is busy with the Bulls while Kolbe, Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse are injured. That means veteran Makazole Mapimpi is likely to start against Wales and the coach is likely to blood Edwill van der Merwe.

The injury to Damian Willemse and the form of Aphelele Fassi suggest the latter will be the fullback against Wales. The midfield is interesting because Erasmus has Damian de Allende and Andre Esterhuizen to pick from at No 12 and he can either take Jesse Kriel to play at No 13 or introduce the promising Ethan Hooker. Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu will also be in the mix.

At flyhalf, Manie Libbok is like to start against Wales and Handre Pollard against Ireland. Erasmus will want to give either Siya Masuku or Jordan Hendrikse a chance off the bench. The Boks will want experience at No 9 and with Cobus Reinach and Jaden Hendrikse out, Faf de Klerk or Grant Williams will start and Morne van den Berg could get a shot in the second half.

At loose forward, there will be new faces against Wales. Duane Vermeulen has retired, Jasper Wiese is suspended and a bunch of Bulls loosies can’t be picked.

Erasmus must decide whether to take or hold back veteran Pieter-Step du Toit but Kwagga Smith is sure to be involved given that he needs to play after a long injury. This match is ideal for the hungry and in-form pair of Evan Roos and Phespi Buthelezi. Roos has been a revelation at No 6 for the Stormers and could well get a shot there for the Boks.

Erasmus has just three locks in his squad, which means Etzebeth, Salmaan Moerat and Franco Mostert will all travel. It still seems strange that Ruben van Heerden was excluded given that RG Snyman and Jean Kleyn are with Munster.

At hooker, Malcolm Marx will make his comeback. He needs game time against Wales. Will Bongi Mbonambi travel or will Erasmus give the backup duty to Andre-Hugo Venter or Joseph Dweba?

Looking at the props in the squad, Neethling Fouche won the most scrum penalties in the URC and he will be involved along with Frans Malherbe and Vincent Koch. With Steven Kitshoff injured, Ox Nche must start at Twickenham with his Sharks teammate Nthuthuko Mnchunu in reserve.

Possible Bok team for Wales: 15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Edwill van der Merwe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Manie Libbok, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Evan Roos, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Ox Nche