PREDICTED: The Springbok 23 the Lions are likely to face in the first test

PREDICTED: The Springbok 23 the Lions are likely to face in the first test

Warren Gatland will have got somewhat of a good idea of some of the players he will face thanks to his stint with the Chiefs in Super Rugby and the Springboks unlikely to change too much from the World Cup-winning squad.

Jacques Nienaber takes over as the Springboks' head coach this year with Rassie Erasmus moving permanently into his role as Director of Rugby.


A lot can change between now and the first test at FNB Stadium on 24 July but Nienaber is likely to keep a large core of the players that won the Rugby World Cup.

He will have to find suitable replacements for the likes of Francois Louw and Tendai 'the Beast' Mtawarira by the time the Lions arrive in the Republic.

We take a look at what Warren Gatland's men could face:


 
 
 
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Assuming everyone was fit, here are 4 potential Springbok line ups 🇿🇦

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Front Row: Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx and Trevor Nyakane

The Springboks used their bench extremely well during the World Cup with the starting front row and replacements making a huge impact.

While Beast has retired, Nienabaar has a primed and ready replacement in Steven Kitshoff who even managed to take the jersey off the Beast at test level before. Mbonambi took the starting #2 jersey off Marx in the build to the World Cup but we predict he will once again regain the starting role but in truth, both are equally capable in the starting XV or off the bench.

Frans Malherbe caused Mako Vunipola all kinds of issues in the World Cup Final could retain the starting jumper but we have made the bold call that Nyakane will replace him in the starting lineup as he was the first choice tighthead before suffering an injury during the World Cup. He has since returned to fine form for the Bulls in Super Rugby despite the side's struggles while there is still space for Vincent Koch to make a claim for the jersey.

Second Row: Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager

The Springbok lineout was a massive strength of the side during the World Cup and we expect the general of that, Lood de Jager, will retain his starting role.

His locking partner and enforcer Eben Etzebeth is also likely to retain his starting role with Franco Mostert and RG Snyman filling the bench for a massive impact.

It's unlikely another second-rower will break into the squad before the tour with the four mentioned players all likely to feature in the 23 whether they are starting or on the bench.

Back Row: Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen

An unchanged back row from the World Cup Final. Many pundits have already been lining up the replacements for Duane Vermeulen who will be 35 by the time the first test comes around.

However, a year in Japan, particularly with the season cut short, will likely see Vermeulen fit and firing to go out in the Green and Gold jersey on another high.

He remains the only question mark with Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Dan du Preez, Marcell Coetzee and Juarno Augustus all waiting in the wings.

Halfbacks: Faf de Klerk and Handre Pollard

De Klerk is was a vital cog in Nienaber's defensive system since the defence guru joined Erasmus at the Springboks.

He also ran the attack and kicked superbly in the World Cup. He is unlikely to be displaced in the side despite the pressure from Herschel Jantjies and Cobus Reinach with Sanele Nohamba not too far off either.

Pollard started all the Springboks' key World Cup games and despite being in France with Montpellier, he will continue to be the go-to man at #10 for the Springboks.

Elton Jantjies, Damian Willemse and Curwin Bosch will be the players in line to step in if he goes down.

Midfielders: Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am

Another combination that is unlikely to change before the first test. Jesse Kriel picked up an unfortunate injury during the World Cup and would be back in the mix for the outside centre jumper.

However, Am is quickly becoming one of the best in the world in his position. As for de Allende, Andre Esterhuizen and Frans Steyn are breathing down his neck for the starting role.

Outside backs: Makazole Mapimpi, Cheslin Kolbe and Willie Le Roux

Although we have picked the same back three that featured in the final there is a good chance this combination could well change before the first test. Cheslin Kolbe is unlikely to lose his place but the likes of Willie Le Roux has come under some scrutiny in South Africa.

Le Roux was a mastermind behind the Boks attack but he was somewhat error-ridden during the competition in Japan. Nienaber may stick with the veteran for the opener with the options beyond Le Roux are relatively inexperienced.

Aphelele Fassi has had an outstanding Super Rugby season and it's rather when he becomes a test international rather than if. Warrick Gelant has filled the role for the Boks as to has Frans Steyn while Damian Willemse and Curwin Bosch could fill the role.

Sbu Nkosi has been making a massive push for a starting jumper and it may even just be a call on form between him and Mapimpi for a starting role.

Bench:

16. Bongi Mbonambi

17. Thomas du Toit

18. Frans Malherbe

19. RG Snyman

20. Franco Mostert

21. Marcell Coetzee

22. Herschel Jantjies

23. Frans Steyn

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