Increased depth a huge plus point as Boks welcome Ireland

South Africa's players celebrate beating Wales. | EPA

South Africa's players celebrate beating Wales. | EPA

Published Jun 25, 2024


It was not the most fluent of Tests, but the Springboks showed signs of continuing their domination in world rugby with a convincing 41-13 win over Wales at Twickenham on Saturday.

There were monster scrums that they sometimes were not rewarded for, and then a few good debuts by the newcomers. Overall, it was a satisfying first Test. Ahead of the naming of the squad today to face Ireland next month, Leighton Koopman highlights five talking points from the Boks’ first outing this year.

South Africa's flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse . | AFP

Springbok depth is at an all-time high

Considering how many players missed out on selection for the Test that would’ve made just as big an impact as the newly baptised Boks, it’s safe to say that depth in any position will not be a problem for South Africa in the near future leading up to the 2027 World Cup.

Jordan Hendrikse started at flyhalf and did a good job although there were some nervous moments. When he left the field, Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu took over the flyhalf spot and impressed with a monster 50m penalty and some good touches. After having only two flyhalves – one at the start – during the World Cup, the Boks can now choose between any of the five they have. It’s the same for almost every other position within the team.

South Africa’s wing Edwill van der Merwe. | AFP

The (late) rising star of Edwill van der Merwe

He’s always shown that potential as a winger and had to patiently wait and fight his way into the Springbok squad. When he got it on Saturday, he grabbed it (and Player of the Match) with both hands. While Van der Merwe didn’t get as many attacking opportunities as he wanted, he used those that came to him.

Before his outstanding try, he worked hard across the field, especially on defence, to make himself count where he could. That is the type of player the Boks want on their side. Those two try-saving tackles in the first half are a testament to the hard work he put in.

Then he scored a stunner of a try on his debut that will live on in his memory for a long long time.

The Springboks huddle before facing Wales. | EPA

Mauling the opposition up front

Even though some regular first-choice players are missing, even up front, the Springboks’ forwards still comfortably dominate their opposition. It’s especially the scrum that continues to walk forward and it doesn’t matter which front rowers Bok coach Rassie Erasmus selects, there is that comfort that the scrum will stay as strong as possible.

Malcolm Marx put in a satisfying shift in his first match back after nine months on the injury list. Vincent Koch and Ox Nche can be starters any day of the week when Frans Malherbe and Steven Kitshoff are absent. Kwagga Smith was his old workhorse self on the side of the scrum after six months of injury. All in all, it was a good outing for the Bok pack ahead of what Ireland will bring.

South Africa's fullback Aphelele Fassi. | AFP

The church of Fassi will be singing praises

The returning Bok could not be soaring higher at the moment after a stellar performance apart from the contentious yellow card he received.

Although he had few opportunities with the ball in hand and he would’ve relished some more chances to attack from the back, he was peppered with box kicks and passed the catching test with flying colours.

That would put a right tick behind his name in the book of Erasmus and he also defended solidly, while taking the ball into contact without any fuss.

While there is Willie le Roux and Damian Willemse coming back from injury looking at the rest of the year, Fassi’s performance should keep him in the Bok conversations.

Jerry Flannery. | EPA

No Nienaber, no problem with the defensive effort

Yes, their defence guru Jacques Nienaber is gone, but judging how the Boks kept Wales scoreless in the second half, there is no indication that the defence will be poorer for it.

Defence coach Jerry Flannery is new and has had only a couple of sessions with the players, but it’s clear the system remains the same, and there should be no concern about Nienaber’s departure.

Flannery will still be adding more of his own touches, especially with Ireland – his former national side – coming to South Africa, but how the Boks tackled against the Welsh should give them confidence. They conceded only one try and had a couple of massive efforts on the try line to keep Wales out.