Writing for Rugby 365, Angus Opperman selects an almost a Springbok XV – spanning the decade 2010 to 2020.
There’s an old R&B song by Brandy titled: ‘Almost doesn’t count.’ She mentions a few things that almost happened in her life, but never did. In a rugby context, in the last decade, there’s been some great talent a step or two away from making their Test debuts being involved in national training camps, but never got that honour.
Some are still in line to fulfil that dream and for others, the proverbial ship most likely has sailed or indeed has wrecked. Below is my ‘Almost a Springbok’ XV from the past decade.
15 Garth April
I think if he had gone on to make his senior debut, it would have been one of the great rugby stories. April played an instrumental role in Durbell’s Gold Cup win that saw him get a call up to WP’s Vodacom Cup side before being signed by the Sharks and later on the Sunwolves. He was in Allister Coetzee’s squad for the Irish test series in 2016, but only ended up playing for the SA “A” side.
14 Sergeal Petersen
The Stormers flyer has been a revelation since day one. Scoring two tries as a teenager straight out of school in a 22-10 victory over the Western Force in the Southern Kings debut match of Super Rugby back in 2013, he has gone on to represent the Cheetahs and win a Currie Cup with them before moving to the Cape where he got a call up for the 2018 end of year tour by Rassie Erasmus after a stellar Currie Cup season.
13 Ruhan Nel
A solid 2018 Currie Cup season saw him called up by Rassie Erasmus for the final two Rugby Championship games but never got any game time. He struggled a bit in the 2019 season to fully adapt to Super Rugby but came into his own in the 2020 season before the COVID-19 pandemic stopped basically everything.
12 Robert Ebersohn
The glue to the Cheetahs backline is what I used to call him. One of the unsung heroes at the point in time at the Cheetahs who did stellar work on defending and organising the Cheetahs backline defence, got a call up in 2013 under Heyneke Meyer but never got his senior green and gold jersey.
11 Seabelo Senatla
The Stormers and BlitzBok flyer often speaks of his desire to still wear the green and gold in the 15-man code. He even said he will decline the Olympic Games with the BlitzBoks to focus on his 15-a-side game. The Welkom express has been to a Springbok training camp in 2014 under Heyneke Meyer and might still wait a while with the current crop of Springbok wingers available.
10 Demetri Catrakilis
The Greek master got a call up in 2013 by Heyneke Meyer whilst playing for the Southern Kings. He never got capped and the powers that be haven’t spoken of him in a national context since.
9 Nic Groom
If Groom, as well as Catrakilis, would’ve have been capped, the chances of them being a halfback Springbok combo – as they were at UCT, Western Province and the Stormers – were slim. Groom was part of Allister Coetzee’s first training squad in 2016, but with Faf de Klerk and Rudy Paige in the mix the cap never came.
8 Josh Strauss
Part of Heyneke Meyer’s training squad in 2012, the former Lions captain since switched allegiances by moving to Glasgow Warriors and ended up playing Test rugby for Scotland.
7 Cyle Brink
So close yet so far! The now former Lion got an injury in the week he was supposed to make his Test debut under Rassie Erasmus in 2019. He might still get there, but loose forward stock in SA and abroad is quite solid, so maybe not anytime soon.
6 Pieter Labuschagne
Like Strauss, had been involved in Heyneke Meyer’s plans, but ended up playing for and even captained his adopted country, Japan, at last year’s World Cup.
5 John Schickerling
Maybe Mr Unlucky. Every time he has had a solid season and there was talk of him becoming a Springbok, he’d get an injury just before the Test season starts. He has, however, been involved with Rassie Erasmus’s end of year training squad in 2018 and could very likely make his debut in the next season or two.
4 Salmaan Moerat
Called up in 2018 by Rassie Erasmus, the former Junior Springbok captain has not been involved again, but he is still very young and could make his debut in the next couple of seasons.
3 Frik Kirsten
The former Bulls prop was called in as injury cover for Frans Malherbe in 2013, but never received a cap before retiring in 2014 due to a neck injury.
2 Callie Visagie
Another Bulls man who got called up under Meyer, but never got a cap. He was brought into the Springbok fold in 2014 after the suspension of Adriaan Strauss following an illegal tackle in a Super Rugby match.
1 Jacobus Janse van Rensburg
The former Lion and Stormer was part of the Springbok squad in 2012. He has been consistent in his performances and won two Currie Cup titles with the Lions and in his final game in South Africa with Western Province.
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