Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Springboks now playing with fire after Joseph Dweba omission

SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus confirmed that Deon Fourie has become the Boks' third choice hooker.

It seems the Springboks haven’t learnt from their recent flyhalf crisis, where a raft of injuries and players being unavailable has seen them dig deep into their bag of utility backs to fill the void.

Heading over to Europe for their end-of-year-tour the Boks have only picked two specialist hookers in Malcolm Marx and Bongi Mbonambi, after Joseph Dweba, who was the third choice hooker during the Welsh series and Rugby Championship, fell out of favour.

ALSO READ: Selections for Bok tour show bosses have an eye on 2027 World Cup

It was a fair call from the Boks to leave Dweba out, although he has been included in the SA A squad, as his lineout throwing has just not been up to international standards and that has to be addressed before he can be included again.

But their reluctance to blood a youngster as a potential back-up, which is how they got into their current flyhalf crisis, is a worrying trend that is starting to emerge from the management.

Springboks hooker Dweba
Joseph Dweba is now in the SA A team. Picture: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

The Bok management puts a premium on utility players, which is understandable as they can fill in certain roles in a pinch, but both hooker and flyhalf are vital positions in the team’s spine and need specialists to be backed in that position in the long term.

The Boks were lucky to have a guy like Damian Willemse available to slot in at flyhalf during their crisis as he is equally adept at fullback, centre and flyhalf, but the Boks’ other back-ups in the position, such as Frans Steyn, Faf de Klerk and Cheslin Kolbe are not long term options.

That is why Manie Libbok has been backed to get a run in the Bok system, and why Johan Goosen was picked for the SA A side, as they finally decided to strengthen the position.

The same should now be done at hooker, but instead a utility player is having all the weight dropped on his shoulders.

Deon Fourie

SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus admitted that Deon Fourie has now become the Boks’ third choice hooker, and having played their during a large part of his early career he is a good back-up in a pinch, but Fourie is now primarily a loose forward and that is by far his preferred position.

“Deon has been picked ahead of Joseph. We gave opportunities in the Rugby Championship. Some people will say we must give guys opportunities and then we can see where they are at, and they must get better from there,” explained Erasmus.

“Deon is a real option to take to the World Cup, just like Schalk Brits was (in 2019), so we do have three hookers in the squad.”

But if there was to be another crisis where both Marx and Mbonambi were unavailable, Fourie would not be a long term option.

Even in the Rugby Championship when he featured in two games as back-up to Marx on the bench, the Boks kept Marx on for the full game and put Fourie on as a loose forward sub in both, as they protected the hooking position.

If they couldn’t back him then to replace Marx, who usually doesn’t play more than 50 minutes when Mbonambi is on the bench, how is he to be backed if he needs to suddenly start?

The Boks missed a trick earlier in the season when they surprisingly didn’t pick Bulls hooker Johan Grobbelaar, after he enjoyed a superb United Rugby Championship campaign for the competition runners-up.

He is now unfortunately injured and unavailable, but would have been the perfect option as the third choice hooker.

But the Boks should at least be including one of the other youngsters, like Stormers hooker Andre-Hugo Venter, or Bulls hooker Jan-Hendrick Wessels in the squad, even if they won’t have a chance to play, but could still build some experience just in case of an emergency.

Both players are at least in the SA A squad, so will gain some sort of experience in the Bok setup.