With Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus’ 46-man Springbok squad for the Georgia and British & Irish Lions Tests named, we identify three players whose inclusion wasn’t necessarily guaranteed but who are thoroughly deserving of their places.
Marco van Staden (Bulls)
Van Staden has unquestionably been one of the best players in the country since local rugby resumed post-hard lockdown. His effectiveness at the breakdown and overall work rate have endeared him to a great many people and his impending departure to Leicester will be deeply felt by the Bulls, even in spite of their seemingly endless supply of quality loose forwards. With Steve Borthwick’s Tigers side themselves already boasting three other Saffa loosies in Jasper Wiese, Cyle Brink and Hanro Liebenberg, van Staden should fit right in.
The 25-year-old, who has played three times for the Boks after debuting in Durban against Argentina in 2018, is difficult to dislike. No matter which team you support, the way van Staden goes about his business and conducts himself on and off on pitch demands respect. A consistent and influential performer, he will be hoping to turn out for the SA A side against the Lions. If he maintains his form, a fourth Test cap may not be out of the equation down the line this season either.
Perhaps one of the more surprising selections in the Boks squad given he’s been playing second fiddle to Jaden Hendrikse at the Sharks, Nohamba’s inclusion remains a cunning one. At just 22, there is plenty of time for the promising youngster to truly show what he can do, and his selection indicates the Bok coaching staff have been impressed by his abilities thus far. Having represented SA Schools and SA U20, as well as shining in his start for the “Springbok Green” team in the Green v Gold Encounter at Newlands in October, Nohamba has clearly been on the Boks’ radar for some time.
While a Test debut against the Lions, and even Georgia, is unlikely, Nohamba could possibly get an opportunity in the Rugby Championship later in the year should injury strike down one of the World Cup-winning trio of Faf de Klerk, Cobus Reinach or Herschel Jantjies. He’s a gamebreaker of note.
From being cast out into the rugby wilderness following the Southern Kings’ liquidation in September to his inclusion in the Springbok squad, it’s been quite a ride for 24-year-old Penxe over the past nine months. The former SA U20 winger debuted for the Kings in 2017 but was always destined for bigger things. Since being snapped up by the Sharks at the end of last year, his consistency and hard work now see him on the brink of Test match rugby.
Penxe has thrived during his time in Durban and should be a favourite to start on the wing for SA A against the Lions in July. While he may be considered relatively low down in the pecking order, as with the other two players on this list, injury could change the Bok situation very quickly and a debut in Green and Gold could alwayds come sooner than expected…