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Boks have best available squad but need selections spot on for Wallabies

Liam Del Carme Sports reporter
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber will have some selection posers before the Tests against the Wallabies.
Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber will have some selection posers before the Tests against the Wallabies.
Image: Dirk Kotze/Gallo Images

The Springboks leave for Australia on Thursday with what its brains trust believe is not just their best available selections but a squad capable of fitting the mould required at next year's Rugby World Cup.

It means the men on display, the overwhelming majority of whom won the 2019 World Cup in Japan, will be tasked with pulling off a win against the Wallabies on Australian soil for the first time since 2013.

Should victory again elude them in Adelaide and Sydney, the Boks won't just be out of contention in this year's Rugby Championship but there will be questions about the team's battle readiness for the World Cup, which is just more than a year away.

The Boks have won their fair share of high pressure games over the past three years, but there have been occasions where they've failed to bend the course of a match definitively their way when they've extended playing opportunity to the wider group.

The squad travelling Down Under is said to be the best available, which means coach Jacques Nienaber should be able to deploy match-day 23s fit for purpose against the Wallabies.

Nienaber and co, most notably in the second Test against Wales and last weekend's clash against the All Blacks, haven't always got it right with their selections this year. The coach, however, has been quick to point out this year's pain potentially carries long term gain.

The Wallabies may have lost badly to Argentina last weekend, but they have found ways to frustrate the Boks for the better part of the past decade on Australian soil. They will again be tough to beat under coach Dave Rennie.

The Boks travel with Malcolm Marx and Joseph Dweba as the only recognised hookers, while Deon Fourie who has made his name as a flank as backup. It holds risk, but the Boks aren't averse to risk when they scribble names on the team sheet.

To perhaps compound matters, there was again nothing reassuring about Dweba's performance against the All Blacks. With Bongi Mbonambi out for four weeks, Dweba needs to get back on the horse as soon as possible if he is going to be the third hooking option at the World Cup.

That position is not the only area where Boks supporters may feel a bit of unease. The starting back row did not fire on all cylinders at Ellis Park, partly because Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen are regaining full fitness. They should be a bit more up to speed against the Wallabies, though Vermeulen may yield to Jasper Wiese in the first Test.

If the travellers have much to prove, the men who lost out on selection for the trip will be tugging at the leash when the team returns. Nienaber has indicated the team will be changed for the Tests in Buenos Aires and Durban against Argentina.

Prop Thomas du Toit, who last played in the defeat to Wales in Bloemfontein, has featured in just two Tests since the last World Cup. The other match post-World Cup he played in was last year's clash against Argentina at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

He is in serious need of a Test gallop, as is lock Marvin Orie, who was in the starting line-up in the last Test against the Wallabies.

Newer Bok inductees, No 8 Evan Roos, prop Ntuthuko Mchunu and lock Ruan Nortje, are also likely to feature in the group for those Tests.

Should the Boks lose both clashes in Australia though, the courage of Nienaber and co's conviction will be tested in their selections against Los Pumas.

TimesLIVE


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