World Cup-winning Boks to boost URC teams
The return of the Springbok internationals will be welcomed by the franchises as it will strengthen them as the season moves into second gear.
Grant Williams and Jaden Hendrikse are sure to strengthen the Sharks from this week. Picture: Steve Haag/Gallo Images
The upcoming round of the United Rugby Championship will be highly anticipated as there’s a possibility of a number of the Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks returning for their franchises.
The return of the internationals will be welcomed by the franchises, who have struggled so far in the competition, as it will strengthen them as the season moves into second gear.
The Bulls, Stormers, and Sharks will benefit from the addition of their Springbok World Cup winners, however, the Lions, unfortunately, do not have any current Springboks.
Sharks to benefit
The Sharks, who are currently without a win in five URC games, stand to benefit the most from the return of the internationals.
Among the SA teams, they had the most number of Springboks at the World Cup in France with Bongi Mbonambi, Eben Etzebeth, Vincent Koch, Ox Nche, Jaden Hendrikse, Grant Williams, Makazole Mapimpi, and Lukhanyo Am representing them.
They have already experienced the impact the internationals make with Am’s return in their 13-12 loss to Connacht on Saturday. Sharks coach John Plumtree praised Am’s returning performance.
“I thought Lukhanyo was really good tonight, his first game back after such a long break, he showed his class,” Plumtree said.
“The guy pulls the trigger on the right options just because of experience, and that’s the standard. We have got guys around him that are aspiring to be like that. I was just proud of Lukhanyo, I wasn’t going to play him for 80 minutes but he wanted to do that,” he said.
Plumtree will hope to unleash his scrumhalves Jaden Hendrikse and Grant Williams, and winger Makazole Mapimpi, who left the World Cup early with an injury, against the Dragons this coming Saturday.
They all returned to training last week, but it seems Plumtree will be more cautious in how he manages Eben Etzebeth, and Ox Nche as they both had heavy workloads in France. Hooker Bongi Mbonambi and prop Vincent Koch are on the injured list and won’t play any time soon.
Exciting Bulls backs
The Bulls, on the other hand, will have four returning players; outside backs Willie le Roux, Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse, plus flanker Marco van Staden.
Jake White, the Bulls director of rugby, will be meticulous in how he integrates his internationals because the players playing in those positions have all done well so far.
The prospect of a back trio of Le Roux, Moodie and Arendse is mouth-watering, but we could see Moodie at No 13 joining David Kriel in midfield.
Van Staden’s return will cause a headache for White as he has an established back row of Marcell Coetzee, Elrigh Louw and Cameron Hanekom.
The inaugural winners of the URC, the Stormers, will have Frans Malherbe, Deon Fourie, Manie Libbok, and Damian Willemse back in the selection mix this week.
The quartet will add a lot of value in the forwards and backs and also bring their big-match temperament, something that has eluded the Stormers so far, to the squad.
It’ll be interesting to see how coach John Dobson integrates the players into his squad.