A raft of Springboks, Blitzboks and Junior Boks made the cut in two 25-man squads after an exciting live draft pick – the first of its kind in South African rugby history – for the Castle Lager Springbok Showdown in Cape Town on Saturday 3 October.
The two squads boast 13 members of the Rugby World Cup-winning squad from last year in Japan, as well as some exciting young players who will get to rub shoulders with established internationals for the eagerly awaited clash at DHL Newlands next Saturday (kick-off at 17h05).
Rassie Erasmus, the SA Rugby Director of Rugby, and Jacques Nienaber, the newly-appointed Springbok head coach, selected the two 25-man squads on Friday evening during a live draft draw at the SuperSport studios in Johannesburg.
Erasmus is the team commissioner for the Green squad, which will be coached by Mzwandile Stick, while Nienaber (team commissioner) and Deon Davids (coach) will be in charge of the Gold squad.
The 50 players who made the cut after the draft picks were selected from the initial 93 players that were unveiled last week. The two squads and management members will assemble in Cape Town on Sunday, 27 September, where they will prepare their match day preparations separately from each other in their respective “bio-bubble environments”.
The players, all of whom are based in South Africa, were drafted and pooled into two squads of 25 each by the respective team commissioners and coaches during the live television broadcast.
Furthermore, each squad will be augmented by seven rookies, whose names will be announced in the coming days. These players, who will return to their provinces the day before the match if they are not required to step into either squad as replacements, were selected to gain experience of a typical Springbok squad environment in the weeklong build-up to the eagerly awaited Cape Town clash.
“The draft picks exercise was a refreshing way to select the two squads for the game,” explained Erasmus.
“Myself, Jacques and the coaches thoroughly enjoyed the exercise, but the tension of picking squads on live television wasn’t good for the nerves – I want to thank SuperSport for their support in this project and I hope our fans enjoyed something new on the South African rugby landscape.”
Erasmus added that the Springboks’ brains trust grabbed the unique opportunity to cast the net very wide in order to compile the original list of 93, and then whittling it down to 50 on Friday evening.
The enlarged player group were identified during Vodacom Super Rugby and the Guinness PRO14 action earlier in the year, and last year’s Currie Cup, while the younger players on the list have been part of SA Rugby’s Elite Player Development (EPD) programme in the last couple of years.
A number of players who are currently injured were not considered for the match, including World Rugby and SA Rugby Player of the Year, Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers, loose forward), as well as RWC-winner Sbu Nkosi (Cell C Sharks, wing), Aphelele Fassi (Cell C Sharks, fullback) and Lizo Gqoboka (Vodacom Bulls, prop).
Erasmus said the players were picked from a very dynamic draft list and he thanked the franchise teams for their collaboration during the entire identification, monitoring and drafting process.
The two Castle Lager Springbok Showdown draft squads are:
** denotes Springbok RWC squad members | *denotes capped Springbok Test players
Springbok Green squad:
Props: Ox Nche*, Thomas du Toit**, Trevor Nyakane**, Luan de Bruin
Hookers: Bongi Mbonambi**, Schalk Erasmus
Locks: JD Schickerling, Hyron Andrews, Oupa Mohoje*
Looseforwards: Siya Kolisi**, Arno Botha*, Duane Vermeulen**, Junior Pokomela, Juarno Augustus
Scrumhalves: Sanele Nohamba, Embrose Papier*
Flyhalves: Elton Jantjies**, Manie Libbok
Centres: Frans Steyn**, Wandisile Simelane, Jeremy Ward
Outside backs: Seabelo Senatla, Yaw Penxe, Gianni Lombard, Malcolm Jaer
Springbok Gold squad:
Props: Steven Kitshoff**, Dylan Smith, Frans Malherbe**, Ruan Dreyer*
Hookers: Scarra Ntubeni*, Dylan Richardson
Locks: Salmaan Moerat, Marvin Orie*, Jason Jenkins*
Looseforwards: Marco van Staden*, Nizaam Carr*, Sikhumbuzo Notshe*; Vincent Tshituka, James Venter
Scrumhalves: Herschel Jantjies**, Jaden Hendrikse
Flyhalves: Damian Willemse**, Curwin Bosch*
Centres: Rikus Pretorius, Lukhanyo Am**, Werner Kok, Manuel Rass
Outside backs: Sergeal Petersen, Rosko Specman, Warrick Gelant**