Who will play No 10 for the Springboks against Wales?

The Springboks will face Wales in a one-off test at Twickenham on June 22. With the game falling outside the international window, players based in England, France and Ireland – and in better-performing domestic franchises such as the Bulls and Stormers – are unlikely to be available for selection.

South Africa's personnel problem will be alleviated by the fact that the Sharks-laden Springbok side will not participate in the upcoming United Rugby League qualifiers, and that the World Cup-winning team based in the Far East will return after the Japanese club season. It concludes on May 26.

However, the situation is that the world champions will have to field a new captain and perhaps a new player to wear the number 10 shirt for the first test of the four-year cycle.

Handre Pollard has taken over for Manny Lebouk as South Africa's World Cup starter, but neither may be available to face Wales (Image by Henry Brown – World Rugby via Getty Images)

Veteran strikers Bongi Mbonambi and Eben Etzebeth will form part of the leadership group, with the former expected to take charge of the team until Siya Kolisi completes his top-14 career with French outfit Racing 92.

Mbonambi could wear the captain's armband in the next two matches against Ireland and the Rugby Championship, before coach Rassie Erasmus assesses his options as captain with an eye on the future.

However, in positions like fly-half, Erasmus' hand will be forced from the start.

Handre Pollard has been South Africa's first choice in the past three World Cups and could be bidding to feature in the next global tournament in Australia. Whether the 30-year-old will be available for the next stint at Twickenham is another story. While Pollard's Leicester club appear set to conclude their Premier League campaign this weekend, it could be some time before he is released and allowed to feature for his country – according to World Rugby's No. 9 regulation.

Damien Willemse and Mane Lebock have been deputized at fly-half in Pollard's absence since Elton Jantjies left the Boks to address several off-field issues in August 2022. Next month, the duo's availability for the Boks will depend on the Stormers' progress in the URC play-offs.

Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu is another Stormers player on the national radar, and he certainly made an impression when he scored two late tries against the Dragons in Newport.

Sasha Feinberg Mngomezulu
Sacha Fineberg-Mngomezulu has played for South Africa A and has impressed for the Stormers (Photo by Ramsay Cardy/Sportsville via Getty Images)

Weinberg-Mngomezulu started for South Africa A on the European Tour in 2022 and has been rated as a player of the future. If the Stormers advance to the latter stages of the URC, the 22-year-old may have to wait a little longer for his first Test cap.

Johan Goossen, the former Boks player who currently plays club rugby in Pretoria, could be an option if the Bulls pull out – but it is worth noting that the veteran has not played a Test since 2016 and was not invited to take part in the national training camp in February.

When the 43-man training squad was announced, Goossen's omission seemed to indicate the coaching staff's intention to develop the next generation of players over the next four years. At the same time, he highlighted the squad's options for the one-off Test against Wales in June – assuming none of the more established players are available.

Nohamba's ability to cover half-and-half – and offer a goal-kicking alternative – could allow selectors to include six or even seven strikers among the reserves.

Until recently, it looked as if Lions duo Jordan Hendricksy (22) and Sanile Nohamba (25) were vying for the chance to start at Twickenham. Like his older brother Jaden, Hendricks is a combative player who enjoys facing off, and would likely be a good physical and mental fit for the Bucs' current squad.

Nohamba first caught the eye while playing scrum-half for the Sharks. Since his move to the Lions, his value as a goalkeeper and manager of the game has become clear, to the point where he was given the number 10 jersey ahead of Hendricks and other franchise professionals.

At the very least, Nohamba could prove to be an asset to a Bucs team that values ​​versatility on matchday. His ability to cover half-and-half – and offer a goal-kicking alternative – could allow selectors to include six or even seven forwards among the reserves.

Sanele Nohamba
Nohamba has stepped up from the Currie Lions Cup squad to establish himself in Super Rugby Pacific (Photo by Ashley Flotman/Gallo Images)

Another unspecified but exciting option has emerged over the past few months.

URC's losing streak led to major changes in the Sharks' staff, with Siya Masuku being given fly-half duties. Masuku's display of eight goals out of eight, combined with his excellent match management, saw the Durban club win 32-31 in their Challenge Cup semi-final against Claremont – they are one score away from winning the tournament and qualifying. Champions Cup next season.

Erasmus and his coaching team value the team's mettle as much as their physical prowess. Masuku's calm mood was evident in the semi-final match – especially at a stage when the more established players were losing their heads. The fact that he had to fight so hard to get this opportunity at the Sharks also speaks to his determination.

At twenty-seven years old, Masuku is not a young man. He is one year older than Lebbock, and only three years younger than Pollard.

Insiders declared that Masuku has the skill set needed to complement a group of more established stars. It has taken some time for the Sharks coaches to get behind him, but the team is certainly reaping the benefits now.

He joined the Lions after school but did not get many first-team opportunities. He ended up playing for the Leopards in the North West Province, and eventually for the Rustenburg Impalas on the amateur club scene. While he helped the Impala win the Gold Cup – South Africa's premier amateur club competition – in 2019, his professional career appeared to have stalled.

He jumped at the chance to join the Southern Kings, before getting a better opportunity with the Panthers. The Central side faced a number of challenges over the course of their Challenge Cup campaign last year, but Masuku was one of the standout players, showing his quality when he scored the winning goal in a hard-fought match against Pau.

When the move to the Sharks was confirmed, insiders declared that Masuku had the skillset needed to complement a host of more established stars. It has taken some time for the Sharks coaches to get behind him, but the team is certainly reaping the benefits now.

As Etzebeth said recently, the Sharks are one win away from qualifying for next season's Champions Cup and successfully ending a largely unsuccessful season. Hiring a newcomer is a relatively big deal, but Masuku should look at this opportunity as a stepping stone to bigger things.

Siya Masuko
Masuku produced a match-winning display in the Sharks' Challenge Cup semi-final win against Clermont (Photo by Henry Brown/Getty Images)

An emphatic performance against Gloucester in the Challenge Cup final will cement his claim in the Sharks' No.10 jersey ahead of the important 2024-25 season. This may also convince Erasmus to support Masuku in what could be a difficult task against Wales.

On the one hand, this game will provide Erasmus with the perfect opportunity to bring in a number of younger players, and experiment with alternative combinations. The Boks boss has already stated that the squad needs to rebuild, with most of the older players who won the World Cup in France last year unlikely to be in the mix for the next tournament in 2027.

Meanwhile, Erasmus will be determined to start the 2024 Test season on a positive note.

Whether the Boks have their best players or not, they are world champions. They are expected to prevail in a match against the Wooden Spoon holders in the Six Nations at a neutral venue – and that expectation is sure to generate a fair amount of pressure.

Erasmus faces a number of difficult decisions in the lead up to that match. Choosing the fly-half right can go a long way towards securing the result and starting the season – as well as the four-year cycle – strong.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *