With Director of South African Rugby Rassie Erasmus and new Springbok Coach Jacques Nienaber naming their sqaud to face the Lions next month there were relatively few surprises. It’s a side that is, for all intents and purposes, a mirror image of the one that won South Africa the World Cup under Erasmus’ tutelage almost two years ago. There are some exciting new names in it though who could really add some spice to a squad that already looks more than capable of the task at hand.
While most of you will be no stranger to the majority of names on the team sheet, we thought it’s worth having a look at the uncapped players, who given South Africa’s isolation from the rugby world due to the complications of COVID for the last eighteen months, are relative unknowns to the world at large. So we’ve picked out five of the players four of whom are uncapped, who you may not know too much about, but are likely to come the end of the Lions tour. While many of them may not make it past the South Africa A match against the Lions which will see the squad trimmed down from 46 to 32 for the three full Tests, the injury card may well see them do longer service than currently planned.
Jasper Wiese – Leicester Tigers
You may not know him all that well, but cast your memory back to the Cheetahs in Super Rugby and all of a sudden it might not be so hazy. English Premiership side Leicester Tigers clearly liked what they saw and snapped up the number eight, and haven’t looked back since. A supercharged ball carrier who is likely to give the Lions Jack Conan a serious run for his money, Wiese is just as stellar in defence as he is in attack. A player who loves to seize opportunities when they come his way, Wiese is likely to be a defensive nightmare for the Lions, especially as in the English Premiership statistics he sits third in most defenders beaten. He also featured top of the charts in the recently concluded European Challenge Cup for defenders beaten, number of carries, metres made and offloads, so international competition clearly suits him. In short, someone the Lions will need to take very seriously indeed. If you need any more convincing we think the video below might sway the argument in Wiese’s favor.
Rynhardt Elstadt – Toulouse
Although Elstadt does have two caps for the Springboks it has always amazed us that he hasn’t donned the green jersey more often. Despite six years as a Stormers regular and the last three years as part of Toulouse’s backbone, Elstadt has not really featured till very recently in the Springboks planning. If you want a tackling machine you don’t get much better than the powerhouse Toulouse flanker. Sitting 3rd in the TOP 14’s tackle statistics this season, he is also a truly bruising ball carrier. Elstadt is definitely in the mold of large and frightening South African loose forwards who are EXCEPTIONALLY difficult to bring down. We wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Elstadt along with Wiese make the cut all the way to the final Test. We think you’ll agree after watching this video clip that encounters with Elstadt are going to keep the Lions medics busy!
Sanele Nohamba – Sharks
An absolute star for the Springbok under 20s side, Nohamba will provide a superb backup for the Springboks in case either of their first choice 9s, Faf de Klerk or Herschel Jantjies fail to last the full campaign due to injury. The under 20s speedster is making a solid transition to the senior game with the Sharks. He’s quick and possesses a keen eye for opportunity. A very capable scrum half in the making and don’t be surprised to see him ultimately turn out for the Springboks in this year’s Rugby Championship and ultimately form part of their World Cup squad should he fare well in this Lions series.
Wandisile Simelane – Lions
If you want excitement and a player who clearly loves what he does, then look no further than Lions centre Wandisile Simelane. His athletics background before he picked up a rugby ball is plain to see. Blindingly fast and possessing some insane footwork, Simelane must surely be one of the most exciting Springbok future prospects. Add to the fact that he would not be out of place in a top European soccer club given his ability with the boot, Simelane brings a full package to his game. Simelane’s grinning face could well end up being one of the lasting images of this series if the Springboks can find a way to create space for him. While he may not make the cut for the three Tests once the Springbok squad gets trimmed down to 32, we secretly hope that “Mr. Happy” as we call Simelane here at the Lineout gets to go the distance in a green jersey next month.
Aphelele Fassi – Sharks
Fast forward the video below to the 45 second mark and you’ll understand why we are so excited about the Sharks fullback who is getting his first Springbok call-up. Once you’ve done that enjoy the rest of video in its entirety highlighting the youngster’s sublime try scoring ability. But for us it that’s blinding turn of pace to catch Aphiwe Dyantyi who was one of the fastest men alive in the sport until recently, which really makes us sit up and take notice as we’re sure it did the Springbok coaching staff. Pitting him against the Lions own Concorde in the shape of Louis Rees-Zammit could well be one of the highlights of the tournament.
We’re doing a brief run through of the Springbok squad in its entirety over on the podcast tonight. But for now we thought you’d appreciate us trying to shed some light for you on those players who have yet to really make a name for themselves in the Green and Gold jersey. We have a feeling that these five players are likely to be getting a lot of space in the media next month and for all the right reasons. Enjoy this foretaste of the Springboks secret weapons ahead of a tour that we can’t wait to see get underway!
Here’s the squad in full over on the podcast if you’re interested.