Springboks depth to be test in the Rugby Championship

Springboks depth to be test in the Rugby Championship

Jacques Nienaber will have a tough task ahead of him as the new Springbok head coach as the Rugby Championship looms with South Africa's domestic competition still yet to kick off and a growing injury list threatens to derail their campaign.

The World Champions have been pencilled in for the tournament that will be hosted in Australia and if they are to take on the likes of Australia, New Zealand and Argentina, they are likely to do so without a number of star players and will be a few months behind the likes of Australia and New Zealand in terms of match fitness.

The Brumbies and Reds will still battle it out for the Super Rugby AU title while a number of All Blacks took the field in round one of the Mitre 10 Cup after a full Super Rugby Aotearoa competition. Meanwhile, back in the Republic, the South Africans are still yet to confirm a schedule for their domestic Super Rugby competition and subsequent Currie Cup season with the Rugby Championship set to kick off in November.

While it was always going to be a difficult task for Nienaber to follow Rassie Erasmus as the Springboks' head coach, his job has become even more testing with test schedule throw into disarray while a number of stars from the World Cup are unlikely to be available to the former defence coach.

Nienaber, unlikely, many other head coaches in test coaches has the luxury of selecting overseas-based players in his squads and he may well need to dip deep into his player pool with the likes of Eben Etzebeth, Lood de Jager, RG Syman, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Handre Pollard likely to all miss the Rugby Championship through injury. His pool of players that featured at the World Cup could even be more depleted by the lack of action in Japan with Franco Mostert, Malcolm Marx, Kwagga Smith, Jesse Kriel and Willie le Roux unlikely to have any match fitness. 

Siya Kolisi's availability is also in doubt after he suffered a long term injury during the regular Super Rugby season which means that out of the eight back five forwards that featured in the 23 from the final, just Duane Vermeulen could be available to Nienabaar. 

It's not just in the pack where the Springboks could be short on numbers with Handre Pollard likely to be sidelined for sometime after he was stretchered off in Montpellier's loss to Racing 92 this past weekend. The Boks went to the Rugby World Cup with two recognised flyhalves, and Frans Steyn backing up as the third. Elton Jantjies would be next in line for the starting 10 jersey but the Boks have adapted their game somewhat when he is on the pitch. 

Outside of Jantjies and Pollard, the Springboks do lack experience in the flyhalf position with form suggesting that two cap Springbok Curwin Bosch is next in line after a standout Super Rugby season with six cap Damian Willemse not too far behind him.

If South Africa do opt to take the trip to Australia to defend their Rugby Championship title, we can expect a very different looking side that hoisted the William Webb Ellis trophy in November last year.

Luckily for the Springboks, they won't be the only team heading into the competition with a new look side with Dave Rennie naming 16 uncapped players in his first squad while Ian Foster selected nine uncapped players in his first squad.

The Springbok pack played a pivotal role in their World Cup glory last year with Handre Pollard being just as important in marshalling Rassie Erasmus' side around the park. With Pollard out and their pack severely depleted, South Africa will certainly consider if they should defend their Rugby Championship crown or not. 

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