Who will play No 10 for the Springboks against Wales?


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

South Africa’s personnel problem will be mitigated by the fact that the Springbok-laden Sharks won’t feature in the upcoming United Rugby Championship play-offs, and that the World Cup-winning contingent based in the Far East will return after the Japanese club season concludes on 26 May.

Nevertheless, the situation is such that the world champions will have to field a new captain and possibly a debutant in the No. 10 jersey in the very first Test of the four-year cycle.

Handré Pollard took over from Manie Libbok as South Africa’s starting 10 at the World Cup, but neither may be available to face Wales (Photo Henry Browne – World Rugby via Getty Images)

Veteran forwards Bongi Mbonambi and Eben Etzebeth will form part of the leadership group, with the former expected to take the captaincy reins until Siya Kolisi completes the current Top 14 campaign with French side Racing 92.

Mbonambi may wear the armband for the subsequent two-match series against Ireland and the Rugby Championship, before coach Rassie Erasmus assesses his captaincy options with an eye to the future.

In positions like fly-half, however, Erasmus’s hand will be forced from the outset.

Handré Pollard has been South Africa’s first-choice 10 at the past three World Cups, and may push to feature at the next global tournament in Australia. Whether the 30-year-old will be available for the next assignment at Twickenham is another story. While Pollard’s club Leicester looks set to finish their Premiership campaign this weekend, it may be a while yet before he is released and permitted to turn out for his country – as per World Rugby’s Regulation 9.

Damian Willemse and Manie Libbok have deputised at fly-half in Pollard’s absence since Elton Jantjies departed the Boks to address several off-field issues in August 2022. Next month, the duo’s availability for the Boks will hinge on the Stormers’ progress in the URC play-offs.

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

Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu
Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu has played for South Africa ‘A’ and has impressed for Stormers (Photo Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Feinberg-Mngomezulu started at fly-half for the South Africa A side on the tour to Europe in 2022, and has been marked as a player for the future. If the Stormers progress to the latter stages of the URC, the 22-year-old may have to wait a little longer for his first Test cap.

Johan Goosen, a former Boks fly-half who is currently playing his club rugby in Pretoria, may be an option if the Bulls bow out – but it’s worth noting that the veteran hasn’t played a Test since 2016 and wasn’t invited to the national training camp in February.

When that 43-man training group was announced, Goosen’s omission appeared to signal the coaching staff’s intent to develop the next generation of players over the next four years. At the same time, it highlighted the team’s options for the one-off Test against Wales in June – assuming that none of the more established players were available.

Nohamba’s ability to cover scrum-half and fly-half – and offer a goal-kicking alternative – may allow the selectors to include six or even seven forwards among the reserves.

Until recently, it appeared as if Lions duo Jordan Hendrikse (22) and Sanele Nohamba (25) were jousting for the opportunity to start at Twickenham. Much like his older brother Jaden, Hendrikse is a combative player who relishes confrontation, and potentially a good physical and mental fit for the current Bok side.

Nohamba first caught the eye while playing scrum-half for the Sharks. Since moving to the Lions, his value as a goal-kicker and game manager has been evident, to the point where he has earned the No. 10 jersey ahead of Hendrikse and other specialists at the franchise.

At the very least, Nohamba may prove an asset to a Bok match-day squad that values versatility. His ability to cover scrum-half and fly-half – and offer a goal-kicking alternative – may allow the selectors to include six or even seven forwards among the reserves.

Sanele Nohamba
Nohamba has progressed from the Lions’ Currie Cup side to establish himself in Super Rugby Pacific (Photo Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)

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

A series of URC defeats has led to significant personnel changes at the Sharks, with Siya Masuku being entrusted with the fly-half duties. Masuku’s eight-from-eight goalkicking display, as well as his excellent game management, earned the Durban-based franchise a 32-31 victory in the Challenge Cup semi-final against Clermont – and they are one result away from winning the tournament and qualifying for next season’s Champions Cup.

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

At 27, Masuku is no youngster. He’s a year older than Libbok, and only three younger than Pollard.

Those in the know declared that Masuku had the skill set to complement a group of more established stars. It’s taken some time for the Sharks coaches to back him, but the team is certainly reaping the benefits now.

He joined the Lions after school but did not receive many opportunities with the senior side. He ended up playing for the Leopards in the North West province, and ultimately the Rustenburg Impalas on the amateur club scene. While he helped the Impalas win the Gold Cup – South Africa’s premier amateur club competition – in 2019, it appeared that his professional career had stalled.

He jumped at the chance to join the Southern Kings, before receiving a better opportunity with the Cheetahs. The central franchise faced a number of challenges over the course of their Challenge Cup campaign last year but Masuku was one of the standouts, and showed his class when he slotted a winner in a crunch game against Pau.

When a move to the Sharks was confirmed, those in the know declared that Masuku had the skill set to complement a group of more established stars. It’s taken some time for the Sharks coaches to back 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 ending a largely unsuccessful season on a successful note. It’s a lot to put on a relative newcomer, but Masuku should view this opportunity as a stepping stone to bigger things.

Siya Masuku
Masuku turned in a match-winning display in Sharks’ Challenge Cup semi-final win v Clermont (Photo Henry Browne/Getty Images)

An assured performance against Gloucester in the Challenge Cup final will strengthen his claim to the Sharks No. 10 jersey ahead of an important 2024-25 season. It may also convince Erasmus to back Masuku for a potentially tricky assignment against Wales.

In one sense, this game will provide Erasmus with the perfect opportunity to blood a number of younger players, and to experiment with alternate combinations. The Boks coach has already stated that the team has to rebuild, as most of the older players who won the World Cup in France last year are unlikely to be in the mix at the next tournament in 2027.

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

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

Erasmus faces a number of tough calls in the lead-up to that game. Getting the fly-half selection right could go a long way towards securing the result and starting the season – as well as the four-year cycle – with a bang.





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