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Breaking down Rassie's 10 best options for the 'Bok Backrow'

By Graeme Peacock
Rassie has choice to make in the Springbok backrow

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One thing the Springboks have never been short of is quality loose forwards, think Andre Venter, Schalk Burger, Gary Teichmann or even newly appointed Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus to name a few.


The list is endless and there is a continuous conveyor belt of quality flankers and No 8’s to select from. The new Springbok coaching team has plenty of options available to them but the combination of the loose trio is usually more important than specific individuals.

The uncertainty around the makeup of the loose trio is even more complex with three potential front-runners in the mix for the captaincy in Warren Whiteley, Siya Kolisi and Duane Vermeulen.

Here we look at some of the choices for the year ahead and leading into Japan 2019.

Warren Whiteley was Allister Coetzee’s captain and it is no secret that the men in Green and Gold missed his leadership in a poor 2017. The Lions’ No 8 is extremely mobile and not your traditional South African eighthman. The Glenwood old boy has extremely good linking skills and his balls skills alongside his elusive running makes him an extremely good all-round package for the loose trio. There are questions being raised around his injuries and his continuous playing schedule in Japan and South Africa needs to be managed.

The Thor-like Duane Vermeulen is a bruising ball carrier that continually gets over the advantage line. The 31-year-old has a thunderous tackle and is extremely effective in the tight loose. A major concern is the fact that his future still seems to be uncertain as to where he will base himself. He is perfectly suited for the northern hemisphere where it is all about inches. The hard fields of the southern hemisphere haven’t been a familiar place of late for the Toulon loose forward and one feels he will have to get down south to add to his tally of test caps. An extremely good blindside option.

Siya Kolisi had an incredible 2017 and firmly put himself on the map from an international point of view. The Stormers’ captain was only second best to Malcolm Marx as SA Rugby Player of the Year. Kolisi is an extremely talented ball carrier and mobile loose forward who adds a massive amount when the game loosens up. At 1.88 metres and 105 kilograms he is not big enough for the blindside when compared to the likes of Jerome Kaino and Scott Fardy, he is also not an out and out openside flanker. Eddie Jones referred to Chris Robshaw as a six-and-a-half and the same could be said of Kolisi who offers plenty to the loose trio.


Franco Mostert is a definite dark horse among the names mentioned but is a player that will add immense value to a Springbok pack. He has a massive engine and gets through a truckload of work in the loose. The former Tukkies stalwart is a fantastic lineout option and his athleticism is second to none. Mostert will need to gain some experience on the side of the scrum if the 27-year-old is to be considered, however he could potentially be an extremely exciting choice with all the second-row options available.

Roelof Smit could be the bolter among this group. The Bulls openside flanker gets through an enormous amount of work in the loose and creates havoc at ruck time, slowing down opposition ball and turning over possession regularly. Smit has unfortunately had a string of injuries and needs a run of games to be considered, he is definitely an outsider but has plenty to offer the Boks if they are looking for something different.

Francois Louw has been a consistent performer in the Green and Gold and doesn’t always get the credit he deserves. The opensider who plies his trade in Bath is a menace at the breakdown and makes a massive amount of tackles for both club and country. He is rated as one of the best in Europe, which speaks volumes taking in to account the quality of scavengers up north. The former Western Province loose forward is dependable and still has plenty to offer the Springboks.

The loose forwards stock is bursting at the seams with quality players, particularly when you still have Pieter Steph Du Toit, Nizaam Carr, Cobus Wiese and the Du Preez twins also in contention. The challenge for Erasmus remains to get the combination right.

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