In the second of a four-part miniseries, we take a look at several South African bolters currently playing in the Top 14 who could force their way into Jacques Nienaber’s Springbok plans ahead of the upcoming British & Irish Lions Test series.
Image Copyright – Steve Haag Sports
Jan Serfontein (Montpellier)
The man many consider unluckiest to have missed out on game time in the Green and Gold over the past few seasons, Serfontein is unquestionably one of the most gifted Saffas of his generation. Sickness and injuries have kept the 2012 IRB Junior Player of the Year out of Rassie Erasmus’ Bok squads, but, at just 27, Serfontein is far too young to be lost to Springbok rugby for good.
His competition: The midfield establishment of Damian de Allende, Lucky Am, Frans Steyn and Jesse Kriel. The locally-based Wandisile Simelane and Cornal Hendricks, plus the Premiership’s André Esterhuizen and even Rohan Janse van Rensburg will challenge for places. That said, Serfontein is arguably the most naturally talented of the lot aside from Steyn.
Past Bok experience: A regular under Heyneke Meyer and Allister Coetzee, Serfontein debuted against Italy in Durban in 2013 at the tender age of 20 and played his last Test in the All Black’s thrilling 25-24 win at Newlands in 2017. A World Cup Bok in 2015, he’s amassed 35-Test caps so far.
His chances: Unlike most of the names in this series, Serfontein is good enough to force his way into the Bok setup without the help of injuries. If he can remain injury-free himself and continue his good run of form for Montpellier, he could be an asset against the Lions.
|At the age of 27, Serfontein could well still feature for the Springboks.|
Dillyn Leyds (La Rochelle)
A former Stormers favourite, Leyds has been plying his trade for Top 14 contenders La Rochelle this season and has been a regular name on Ronan O’Gara’s team sheets. The skilful 28-year-old’s ability to play across the back three could count in his favour, though he’s up against some seriously stiff opposition.
His competition: World Cup members Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Makazole Mapimpi, Warrick Gelant and Damian Willemse. A few more locally-based players could also have the jump on him.
Past Bok experience: Leyds made his debut under Allister Coetzee against France in 2017 and earned the last of his 10-caps against Argentina in the build-up to the 2019 World Cup.
His chances: He’s unlikely to get a look-in unless injuries befall others higher up the pecking order. Still, Gelant is in a race against time to be fit for the July series with plenty more rugby still to come. He could yet earn a call-up.
|Though low down on the outside backs’ pecking order, the former Stormers flyer could still feature.|
Joseph Dweba (Bordeaux Bègles)
The former Cheetah, Dweba was one of the most talked-about South African players over the past two or so seasons. Blessed with unique dynamism, fierce aggression, pace and raw power, many believe it shouldn’t be too long before he earns higher honours. Since his move to Bordeaux last year, however, he’s struggled with fitness and game time which will count against him.
His competition: Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx are shoo-ins for the Lions series. With Schalk Brits now retired, the third hooker berth is vacant at the Boks meaning the likes of Scarra Ntubeni will also be up for selection.
Past Bok experience: Dweba is uncapped.
His chances: If he can overcome his injury troubles and convince Bordeaux coach Christophe Urios to give him regular game time, he’ll certainly be in the Bok conversation.
|There are few things better than watching Dweba in full flight.|
Written by Shaun Goosen.
Images Copyright: Steve Haag Sports.