The Springboks ended their 2022 season on a high with a stunning performance against England at Twickenham on Saturday; their eighth win of the year.
The Boks also lost five times for a satisfactory record, but that is all.
Crucially, the Boks grew their game-plan and depth and ahead of the 2023 season and their World Cup defence in France, coach Jacques Nienaber will be pleased and excited.
The emergence of several new players, and men who have grabbed their chance and others who regained top form, has left some 2019 World Cup stars and men once probably earmarked to be involved in 2023 all of a sudden vulnerable.
These eight Boks might not have the most settled of festive seasons.
The former Sharks and now Bulls winger was a certainty for the World Cup side in 2019 and played a huge role in the Boks’ march to the title, stepping in when Cheslin Kolbe was injured. But a few bad injuries and the emergence of the likes of Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse means the 26-year-old, 26-cap Bok will have a battle on his hands to make it to France next year.
Like Nkosi, the 2019 World Cup hero, who scored a stunning try in the final in Yokohama, faces a battle to hang on to his spot in the squad — through no fault of his own. The 32-year-old specialist winger is under pressure to again wear the No 11 jersey, following the stunning impact the likes of Arendse and Moodie have made, with both men also able to play fullback.
The veteran utility man was a key figure in 2019 as he covered positions 10 to 15 on the bench which allowed the Boks to pick their ‘bomb squad’ of six forwards as replacements. But, at 35 and having not played much this year, the Cheetahs man’s time may be up as Willie le Roux, Damian Willemse and Manie Libbok are all able to slot in anywhere between 10 and 15 as well.
It is almost unbelievable to think that one of the Boks’ most consistent performers of recent years might be in danger of not going to the World Cup next year. But, with Willemse having slotted in at 10 so well, with the backs looking more dangerous than ever with ball in hand, and the side not losing anything defensively, and with Libbok knocking hard on the door, could Pollard miss out?
It will take something dramatic to happen for the former Lions No 10 to get back into the Bok squad. Limited playing opportunities and personal issues impacted Jantjies’ 2022 season and in his absence other flyhalves have stepped up and said, ‘pick me’. Right now Jantjies is possibly even behind Johan Goosen, Chris Smith, Gianni Lombard and Jordan Hendrikse in the No 10 queue.
The 26-year-old hit SA rugby with a bang in 2019, by scoring two tries on debut against Australia and he got a third try against New Zealand in a 16-16 draw later in the Rugby Championship. He was also Faf de Klerk’s back-up in Japan at the World Cup. But, in 2022 Jantjies struggled to make the Bok squad and he’ll be lucky to feature in France later next year.
Like Pollard, it almost seems wrong to wonder whether this giant of recent Bok rugby will go to the World Cup. But, at 36 and breaking down more regularly, and with 63 Tests behind him, he’s struggling to keep up with the likes of Jasper Wiese, Evan Roos, and Kwagga Smith, who’ve all play 8 this season, and there are a few others pushing hard for Bok recognition.
It was some time ago now that the former Cheetahs man was picked for the Boks and at the start of 2022 Dweba was definitely next in line after Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx. And he got a few decent chances to make the most of that backing, but some poor lineout throwing cost him his place in the squad. Is it all over for Dweba going into 2023, or will he fight back?