Jacques van der Westhuyzen

By Jacques van der Westhuyzen

Head of Sport

First take: A solid Bok World Cup squad, but injuries to key players a big blow

Handre Pollard and Lukhanyo Am missing out is a major setback for the Boks' chances in France this year.

No one saw that coming: No Handre Pollard or Lukhanyo Am for the Springboks at this year’s World Cup.
It is a massive blow to the Boks’ chances of defending the title they won in 2019 in Japan.

Pollard (calf) has been the team’s vice-captain for some time and played a huge role with the boot in helping the Boks beat England in the final in Japan four years ago.

Am (knee), meanwhile, has been a tower in midfield, the rock in defence and the playmaker for the men outside him. He will be missed.

These were the two shock omissions when the 33-man Bok World Cup squad was named on Tuesday.


In Pollard’s absence, Manie Libbok will be the Boks’ first choice No 10, a player full of skill and X-factor, but he only came into the set-up a year ago.

And, he and the Boks will have no proper back-up at flyhalf. Damian Willemse has played 10, very well at times, but it is not his preferred position and he only plays 12 or 15 for the Stormers. Willie le Roux, a specialist fullback, will be coach Jacques Nienaber’s other option at 10.


In Am’s place, Jesse Kriel should step forward to fill the No 13 jersey (and how well hasn’t he played this year), but Nienaber and Co could just as easily shift Damian de Allende to 13 with Andre Esterhuizen playing 12, or could we even see Willemse at 12, with either De Allende or Esterhuizen at 13?

There are options, but there is not a lot of depth — outside centre is the one position where the Boks do not have plenty of players knocking on the door.

Lock and loose forward

Lood de Jager’s absence, because of a chest problem, is also a major blow. His experience will be missed as both Marvin Orie and Jean Kleyn have played little Test rugby, though they have performed well when they have been picked. RG Snyman is almost certain to be Eben Etzebeth’s lock partner – and how wonderful that he has recovered from four years of suffering to be back in the Bok set-up for the World Cup.

It is a little surprising Nienaber and Co have opted for just two specialist hookers, with Deon Fourie the back-up. The veteran Fourie has played hooker before, but in recent years has only played at flank.
While Marco van Staden deserves his spot in the squad among the loose forwards, picking seven back-row men seems excessive.


Also, are four scrumhalves really necessary? Faf de Klerk, Jaden Hendrikse, Grant Williams and Cobus Reinach all offer something different and it will be interesting to see who the coaching team prefer in the so-called “big games”.

Twenty of the 33 players featured at the 2019 World Cup so there is plenty of experience in the squad, but there’s also exciting young talent, among them wingers Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse. Who will end up in the No 11 and 14 jerseys?

Spare a thought for those who missed out — Herschel Jantjies, Thomas du Toit, Joseph Dweba and Elton Jantjies and Warrick Gelant, from the 2019 squad.


Nine players have been placed on a standby list in case of injuries or illness.

The good news is captain Siya Kolisi seems to be on his way back to full fitness after a knee injury and he is expected to play against either Wales next weekend or the All Blacks the Friday after that.

It’s a good Bok squad, and it’s definitely strong enough to win a World Cup. South African rugby fans should be excited about the team’s chances, though the Boks are in a very competitive Pool B (with Ireland, Scotland, Tonga and Romania) and they’re on the “killer side” of the draw.

Let’s hope Kolisi recovers well and no more players pick up injuries. The absence of Pollard, Am and De Jager though is massive.

The Boks fly out of South Africa on Saturday.

Springbok World Cup quad:

Outside backs: Canan Moodie, Cheslin Kolbe, Makazole Mapimpi, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Willie le Roux
Centres: Andre Esterhuizen, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende
Flyhalves: Manie Libbok, Damian Willemse,
Scrumhalves: Faf de Klerk, Jaden Hendrikse, Grant Williams, Cobus Reinach
Loose forwards: Marco van Staden, Jasper Wiese, Kwagga Smith, Deon Fourie, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Franco Mostert, Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi
Locks: Marvin Orie, RG Snyman, Jean Kleyn, Eben Etzebeth
Hookers: Bongi Mbonambi, Malcolm Marx
Props: Vincent Koch, Ox Nche, Frans Malherbe, Trevor Nyakane, Steven Kitshoff

Nine players have been placed on a standby list: Lukhanyo Am, Lood de Jager, Jean-Luc du Preez, Thomas du Toit, Joseph Dweba, Handre Pollard, Evan Roos, Gerhard Steenekamp