Transformation targets are set at 50% for the 2019 World Cup and Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is expected to hover around that benchmark when he names his starting team for Saturday’s opening Test against England at Ellis Park.
Erasmus will name his squad on Thursday, and although he has an inflated group of 43 players‚ the splitting of his resources in last week’s Test against Wales means he has less room to manoeuvre than meets the eye.
With the possible exception of Pieter-Steph du Toit who captained the team in Washington, the men who played in the US capital are not real contenders for a starting berth this weekend. Du Toit will more likely start from the bench.
The starting line-up‚ however‚ should provide a snapshot of the talent Erasmus would like to take to the World Cup.
Loosehead Tendai Mtawarira‚ who will require careful game time management‚ will start his 99th Test on Saturday. He looks likely to be partnered by hooker Bongi Mbonambi and tighthead Trevor Nyakane.
Injury has limited Mbonambi’s activity this season‚ while Nyakane appears reinvigorated after being put through the wringer at the Bulls.
With Du Toit likely to start off the bench‚ Franco Mostert and free-running RG Snyman are set to start in the second row.
Captain Siya Kolisi‚ Jean-Luc du Preez and Duane Vermeulen appear to be certainties as the loose trio. The same applies to Faf de Klerk and Handré Pollard as halfback‚ while the starting midfield combination may well be Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am. De Allende has put a disappointing 2016 behind him‚ while Am’s form has been energetically inspiring.
Jesse Kriel has also looked more incisive this season‚ but his exertions in Washington mean he will probably start from the bench. Aphiwe Dyantyi and Sibusiso Nkosi look set to join Willie le Roux in a dramatically reshaped back three.
The wings have made some telling contributions in Super Rugby‚ while Le Roux has produced such a sting in the tail at Wasps‚ he was perhaps unlucky not to crack a nomination for premiership player of the year.
England, meanwhile‚ are sweating on the availability of lock Joe Launchbury for Saturday’s Test. The Wasps captain‚ who missed Tuesday’s training‚ is struggling with a calf injury.
His second-row partnership with Maro Itoje was set to be one of the more potent combinations in the England team but in his absence‚ as well as that of Courtney Lawes and Charlie Ewels who are not touring‚ England may be a little stretched.
Nick Isiekwe may join his Saracens teammate in the second row‚ while fresh Kiwi recruit‚ flank Brad Shields, may be another option. Coach Eddie Jones, however‚ is unlikely to compromise with bulk in his second row.