Aphelele Fassi back as Pieter-Steph du Toit leads Springboks against Wales

Fullback Aphelele Fassi has been in fine form for the Sharks, and will start for the Springboks against Wales. Photo: BackpagePix

Fullback Aphelele Fassi has been in fine form for the Sharks, and will start for the Springboks against Wales. Photo: BackpagePix

Published Jun 19, 2024


Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus says Saturday’s match against Wales in London is the first small step on a long journey to the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia, and that his quest to build depth is underway.

Erasmus has picked four uncapped players – Edwill van der Merwe (wing), Jordan Hendrikse (flyhalf), Ben-Jason Dixon (lock/flank) and Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (utility back) – and recalled rising star No 8 Evan Roos.

He also taking five uncapped players along for the ride to experience intimately what Test rugby is about.

The Lions duo of Van der Merwe and Hendrikse are in the starting line-up, and the Stormers pair of Dixon and Feinberg-Mngomezulu will play off the bench – while there is a hard core of experience around the newcomers.

A total of 10 players in the match-23 featured in the World Cup final against the All Blacks, while 16 were members of the Rugby World Cup squad.

The Bok coach explained that over the next three years, it will be like adding layers to a cake so that by the time the Boks get to the World Cup, only the icing needs to be applied.

“It is vitally important that we use the opportunity to build that we did not have when we won the 2019 World Cup,” Erasmus said yesterday in Pretoria.

“We did not have a chance in 2020 to kick on because of Covid, and when we did resume playing, we had to chuck large groups of newcomers into games.

“We had 18 new players in the game against Wales in 2022 in Bloemfontein, and about the same for an away match against Argentina. That was not ideal, and we lost those games.”

— Springboks (@Springboks) June 13, 2024

Erasmus said his challenge is to add new players week by week, while also bringing in the new ideas of assistants Tony Brown and Jerry Flannery.

“It is very important that we ensure we maintain our high standards – the core way we play – while adding on what Tony and Jerry are doing,” he said.

“If we just threw in a bunch of young guys without seniors around them, we won’t know if we have kept our foundation or not.

“So, we have picked this team on the basis that we can stay where we were, and we can start building on top of that.”

The Boks have a brand new flyhalf in the 22-year-old Hendrikse, and Erasmus has partnered him with the experienced Faf de Klerk on his inside and the burly André Esterhuizen – who is joining the Sharks next season – on his outside at centre.

Sharks star fullback Aphelele Fassi has also been recalled after an excellent season for the Durban-based side, with other Sharks players in the team being wing Makazole Mapimpi, lock Eben Etzebeth, props Ox Nche and Vincent Koch, and replacements Bongi Mbonambi, Ntuthuko Mchunu and Grant Williams.

“Jordan is a player we have always believed will come through the ranks,” Erasmus explained.

“He has the benefit of having been with us at the training camp for some time (because the Lions finished the United Rugby Championship early).

“With the Bulls players not available, the Stormers players having been with us for just two sessions, and the overseas guys not eligible, it helps to know that you are not picking a guy who has had limited sessions.”

Erasmus has handed the captaincy to veteran Pieter-Steph du Toit. The big flank last captained the Bok in a similar fixture in 2018, when an experimental Bok team lost to Wales in Washington.

“Pieter-Steph has been a key figure in our system for several years now, and he’s a player who leads by example on the field,” said Erasmus.

“We have a strong core of senior players, and we had a few options for captain, but we feel Pieter-Steph will be the right man to lead this team.

“He has captained the Springboks only once before, and after that result in Washington, we believe it will make this match even more personal for him.

“Over and above that, he has immense respect from his teammates and the coaches, and we know he will accept this responsibility with great pride.”

Thirty players will travel to London on Wednesday night, with those outside of the match-day squad being Manie Libbok (flyhalf), RG Snyman (lock), Neethling Fouché (prop), Phepsi Buthelezi (loose forward), Ethan Hooker (centre), Quan Horn (fullback) and André-Hugo Venter (hooker).

Springbok Team

15 Aphelele Fassi 14 Edwill van der Merwe 13 Jesse Kriel 12 André Esterhuizen 11 Makazole Mapimpi 10 Jordan Hendrikse 9 Faf de Klerk 8 Evan Roos 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit (captain) 6 Kwagga Smith 5 Franco Mostert 4 Eben Etzebeth 3 Vincent Koch 2 Malcolm Marx 1 Ox Nche.

Bench: 16 Bongi Mbonambi 17 Ntuthuko Mchunu 18 Frans Malherbe 19 Salmaan Moerat 20 Ben-Jason Dixon 21 Grant Williams 22 Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu 23 Damian de Allende.

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