One of the biggest dilemmas that international rugby coaches face is whether to pick a team based on form or experience. Most coaches go for the player that has proven himself at the highest level regardless of current form over the player currently ripping it up in the domestic competitions. This is a Springbok XV that Heyneke Meyer should look at based on current form this season.
15. Jesse Kriel – At fullback it is hard to look past the extremely talented Jesse Kriel. The 21 year old twin has been the pick of the Bulls players this season. He’s ranked 2nd in line breaks and 6th in defenders beaten this season. His consistency allows him to be relied upon and his strength under the high ball gives the Bulls’ backs a solid platform to attack from. In a somewhat rigid and orthodox Bulls team, this youngster adds some spark and excitement to the squad which benefits both the fans and the team. He is one to watch out for in the future.
14. Ruan Combrinck – The Lions fullback turned winger has come been in outstanding form over the past few weeks of Super Rugby. His astonishing pace complements his superb eye for a gap. He is ranked 8th in defenders beaten this year which proves his slipperiness as a winger. If the 24-year old can improve on his recent performances he will soon find himself in contention for higher honours.
13. Juan De Jongh – The experienced Stormers centre has proved many doubters wrong by having his best season in a long time. The vice-captain is small in size but more than makes up for it with his work-rate and skill. He has been an important cog in the Stormers so far successful campaign which sees them top the South African conference.
12. Damian De Allende – The 23-year old has burst onto the Super Rugby scene in the past two years. He was superb last season while donning the 13 and sometimes 14 jumpers, however this season, with De Villiers out injured De Allende has made the Stormers 12 jersey his own with devastating effects. He leads the competition in defenders beaten, and is 4th in clean breaks. One of the standout players in this year’s Super Rugby season De Allende has all but secured himself a Springbok spot.
11. Bryan Habana – The seasoned veteran is still South Africa’s top left winger. His experience and skill set played an integral part in Toulon’s Champions Cup victory and with a lot of youngsters set to make up the Springbok backline this , his experience in the jersey that he has made his own for the past decade, will prove invaluable come World Cup time.
10. Handre Pollard – The fly-half is the most exciting prospect in South African rugby at the moment. At only 21 years of age he controls the game like a 100-test veteran. He made his Springbok debut last year and his best game in the green and gold was the victory against New Zealand at Ellis Park where he scored two tries and kicked 9 points to steer the Springboks to victory over their All Black rivals. A solid season for the Bulls, where he leads the competition in points scored even though he has missed two games, should see him retain his Springbok spot. An exciting future awaits the young first-five.
9. Jacobus Reinach – The Sharks number 9 has been one of the shining lights in a somewhat dull Sharks season. The little half-back is always dangerous around the fringes of rucks he has a knack for breaking the line. He is always there in support, is solid on defence and reliable under the high ball. He ranks 6th in clean breaks and 2nd in metres made by a scrum-half. He is still young however he is definitely the top performing half-back in South Africa at the moment and he will be eyeing a permanent Bok spot.
8. Warren Whiteley – The Lions’ captain has been one of the main reasons for his team’s incredible season thus far. The ex-sevens star has proven that he is able to thrive in the 15s game. He has been immense at the back of a powerful Lions scrum. He leads the competition in tackles by a long way with 170, 47 more than Michael Hooper in 2nd place. He also 5th in lineout steals. His pace and ability to break the line in attack is perfectly equalled out by his brute force in defence. He will hope to keep up his high standard of play in an attempt to lead his side to their first every playoff place and eventually earn a permanent spot in the Springbok setup.
7. Warwick Tecklenburg – The unsung hero in an unmatched loose forward trio this season. The blindside flanker is a tireless worker and a brick wall on defence. At 28, he is a late bloomer. However 2015 has been his breakout season were he ranks 3rd in tackles made and 4th in turnovers won. On form he is the best blindside flanker in South African at the moment. Although South Africa has almost an infinite number of powerful loose forwards, the Lions breakaway flanker’s name is definitely going to come into consideration.
6. Jaco Kriel – The final member of the impressive Lions back-row trio, Kriel fits the bill perfectly for an openside flanker. Very similar to Heinrich Brussow in stature, Kriel is all about pure strength. He ranks 10th in turnovers won in the forwards he has run the most metres and beaten the 3rd most defenders. At just 25 he still has time to improve his already powerful game and Springbok selection is inevitable if he keeps up his sometimes game-winning performances.
5. Franco Mostert – Another important player in the Lions’ powerful scrum. The young lock is 2nd in tackles made and metres run by a lock. At just 24 Mostert has huge potential and Springbok dreams are not far off if he keeps up his great run of form.
4. Eben Etzebeth – Even though the towering lock forward has missed half the season because of recurring injuries, Etzebeth is devastating when he is fully fit. He is an experienced player and at only 23, he still has huge room for improvement. The Stormers will hope their star player can keep fit and help them to secure a playoff spot. Having not played international rugby for over a year, Etzebeth will hope that his recent form will show Meyer that he is irreplaceable in the number 4 jersey.
3. Frans Malherbe – The Stormers tighthead has not played the full Super Rugby season, however it is easy to see why he earned his first Springbok camp last year. He adds incredible strength to an already powerful Stormers pack and his scrummaging is second to none. The Stormers scrum is difficult to oppose when Malherbe is packing down on the tighthead side. This allows the Stormers big men to gain the upper hand which gives the backs more freedom to play with. After this year’s performance it’s hard to see how Malherbe won’t make the squad.
2. Adrian Strauss – The former Cheetahs captain has had a stellar season after making the switch from Bloemfontein to Pretoria. His strength at scrum time, accompanied by his accurate lineout ball complement his high work rate on defence and attack. A below par season for the incumbent hooker Bismarck Du Plessis will no doubt open the door for Strauss to make the Springbok hooker jersey his own.
1. Trevor Nyakane – The loose head prop made the move to Loftus at the same time as Strauss and their chemistry has paid dividends for the Pretoria side. A powerful scrum threat, Nyakane does well to pressure his opponent during scrum time. Disciplinary issues have halted his Springbok progress. If Nyakane can consistently put in good performances and keep his discipline in check off the field he’ll definitely stake a good claim for a World Cup spot.
These 15 players have shown their close and have displayed promising performances throughout the season. Springbok fans will hope that the South African players can carry this form into the World Cup.