It may come as a surprise to some supporters to learn that the overseas contingent will probably make up the largest portion of the probable World Cup squad.
Yes, barring one player who will be given the bad news on Monday that he won’t be going to Japan, Rassie Erasmus’ 31 players for the World Cup tournament seem to be finalised.
Of the 37 players in the training squad, Marcell Coetzee has been ruled out after his ankle operation, and four have been sent back to their unions: Lizo Gqoboka (Bulls), André Esterhuizen and Thomas du Toit (Sharks) and Marvin Orie (Lions)
The unlucky player of the remaining 32 is bound to be Warrick Gelant, the Bulls fullback, although he will be exceedingly unlucky. Wille le Roux, who has seldom really convinced at test level with his habit of wild passes and general uncertainty under the high ball, is the man in possession and will be backed up by Frans Steyn and Cheslin Kolbe.
Steyn has played fullback at all levels, but his diminishing speed – which was shown up in the last test against the Pumas – must be a concern for Erasmus.
Kolbe was impressive as the fullback for the champion Top 14 side Toulouse in France and will probably be the go-to man if Le Roux’s form or fitness is suspect.
♦ If Gelant is left out of the squad, Kwagga Smith and Rynardt Elstadt will both be on the Japan-bound plane. That will include nine players who play their rugby overseas: Le Roux, Kolbe, Steyn, Faf de Klerk, Cobus Reinach, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Francois Louw and Elstadt.
That is one more than the eight Stormers. The next best presentation will come from the Bulls (seven, if Gelant is cut from the squad), followed by the Sharks (four) and the Lions (three).
However, a contentious question is whether the supporters’ favourite Smith will be in the side. After a good test against the All Blacks, who favoured the running game, he was rather quiet away from the breakdowns in the last stop-start test against Argentina.
The uncertainty about Smith’s effectiveness against stronger sides who prefer the bruising, mauling approach, may perhaps count against his inclusion.
On the other hand, Elstadt could lose out on selection. There is a depth of good loose forwards that could, at a pinch, be bolstered by moving Franco Mostert to flank if needed.
It is a position not altogether strange to him. There are enough quality locks to consider such a move.
A breakdown by province of the remaining 32 players in the present Bok training squad –
Overseas players (9):
Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Frans Steyn, Faf de Klerk, Cobus Reinach, Vincent Kock, Franco Mostert, Francois Louw, Rynhardt Elstadt.
Damian de Allende, Herschel Jantjies, Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi.
Warrick Gelant, Jesse Kriel, Handré Pollard, Schalk Brits, Trevor Nyakane, RG Snyman, Lood de Jager, Duane Vermeulen.
Makazole Mapimpi, Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Beast Mtawarira.
Elton Jantjies, Malcolm Marx, Kwagga Smith.