South African head coach Rassie Erasmus has named a 26 man alignment squad for their camp ahead of the rugby championship on the 20th of July and while I’m not going to name the whole squad because the squad is not yet altogether I will pick out a few names and have a little look into what Rassie’s plan may be.
First of all with this initial squad Rassie looks to be rewarding players based on form in super rugby players like Marvin Orie, Kwagga Smith, Dillyn Lleyds and Herschel Jantjies. They have all performed admirably this season and while for the most part the SA teams were inconsistent, these players seemed to perform well even when the teams themselves were under performing. This kind of rewarding players can only bode well for the future and hopefully reignite SA as a force in the super rugby seasons to come as well as ensure that at any given time the Springboks that have been selected are the best we have at that moment in time which is always good news. With the number of exciting young talent in the squad thus far it leads me to believe the Boks will play an exciting brand of rugby in this years shortened Rugby Championship which is something Bok fans have been waiting for, for a number of years.
Rassie has also included a number of overseas players in his squad so far, players such as Cobus Reinach, Marcell Coetzee and Rynardt Elstadt have all been included after having good seasons for their respective clubs. Elstadt in particular helped Toulouse to the top 14 title this season and is joined in the squad by the dynamic Cheslin Kolbe. Overall 9 overseas players will be included in the preliminary squad. Rassie is showing that it doesn’t matter where you are in the world, if you are a South African and good enough you will be picked. In years gone by overseas players have often been overlooked because they don’t play Super Rugby or they don’t play locally for franchises in SA but Rassie has made it clear that he will be picking the best available XV regardless of where they play which again can only be a positive going forward.
In a squad that is as young and talented as the one Rassie has picked you would need experienced players to combine with that young talent and the coach has that by the bucket load. Add to that a number of players with a wealth of Bok experience to call up on most notably Siya Kolisi, Tendai Mtawarira and Eben Etzebeth in the forwards and Frans Steyn, Willie le Roux and Damian de Allende in the backs and the squad is well covered in the experience department. And players coming in from the Bulls and Sharks quarterfinals will only enhance that fact with the likes of Duane Vermeulen, Handre Pollard and Coenie Oosthuizen all set for a return to the alignment and conditioning squad by Monday the 1st of July.
Overall the squad looks to be one of the strongest we have seen in recent years and just glancing at the squad there aren’t many changes I’d make if any to be honest. You can see it’s a squad aimed more at the World Cup then at the Rugby Championship and I like that forward planning from the Bok hierarchy. Using the championship as a chance to test combinations and get the squad together as a unit. Another positive of this initial squad is that if the injury Gods are not in our favor I believe the guy stepping in will not mean a step down in quality. Many of these players are on a similar level and are the elite that South Africa has to offer. In short I believe SA are preparing well for both the Rugby Championship and for the World Cup later this year in Japan. Rassie is building a squad to compete with the very best in the world while playing good rugby, with enough experience when it comes to crunch time in any given game or tournament. There will be a lot to think about between now and the 25th of August when the springbok Squad is announced for the World Cup and tough decisions will have to be made but that is a great position to be in as a top rugby playing nation. It means we can compete at the top level and also means that the talent coming through is as strong as ever and SA rugby is in good hands.