Since coming back from a career-threatening shoulder injury, Pollard has delivered quality performance after quality performance. He was the most consistent Bok back in the recent Rugby Championship and finished the competition as the leading points-scorer with 42 points (the next best being Christian Leiali’ifano with 24). He’s a serious attacking threat; he carries strongly and makes metres, and he has an eye for the gap, but he’s also a powerful defender. A senior of the team with 41 Test caps, the flyhalf is the leader of the back division and a player who commands respect and attention. He is the Bok general.
Pieter-Steph du Toit
He was once the next big thing at lock, but he’s transitioned to blindside flank and is now surely regarded one of the best No 7s in the game. Du Toit has been “Mr Consistent” in the last two years and he’ll go to the World Cup as the outright first choice blindside man. Not only is he one of the Boks’ most powerful ball-carriers, he is also, and maybe more importantly, one of the team’s hardest workers and biggest tacklers – and in a World Cup that’s possibly more important than anything else. He finished the Rugby Championship as the competition’s best defender, by making 36 tackles.
When he joined the Lions from the Bulls as a hopeful 22-year-old in 2013 not too many rugby watchers would have thought he’d turn out to be a Springbok of distinction. Now, at 28, lock Mostert is a Bok mainstay and key man in the tight-five. He leads the line-outs, wins ball and steals ball, and ask anyone close to the team who works hardest for the least recognition and you’ll hear his name pop up every time. A grafter and a player whose engine never gives up, Mostert will carry all day and make tackle after tackle; he made a staggering 26 in just two Rugby Championship matches this year.
It is five years now since the 25-year-old debuted for the Boks and he has grown into the form of his life. He was imperious in the Rugby Championship and if he carries that form into the World Cup he will be one of the stars of the show. He truly has the class to boss the World Cup in a similar way to Dan Carter in the 2015 event. It is difficult to believe that a year ago he was bereft of confidence and was getting moved to inside centre in games. His goal kicking has never been better.
The Bok bruiser has been running the engine room for seven years now and is playing the best rugby of his career. Etzebeth has played through the ups and downs of the Springboks since his debut in 2012 and in losing teams his frustrations have been apparent as he tried to carry the team on his back. Now, in a winning team, he is flourishing and playing with an intimidating swagger. At 2.03m and with 120kg of bulging muscle, he is the ideal No 4 enforcer lock and the heart and soul of the Springbok pack.
Pieter-Steph du Toit
When the finalists for the World Rugby Player of the Year are announced later this year, it would be a shock if Du Toit is not among that number. A very good lock for much of his career, Du Toit has burgeoned into a brilliant blindside flanker. A massive man at 2m and 117kg, he puts his bulk to best use because of his incredible work ethic. He tirelessly defends and carries the ball while working hard to get into position to support. Who was on Herschel Jantjies’ shoulder when he scored against the All Blacks from Cheslin Kolbe’s chip ….?
There is a reason Kolisi was eased back from a long-term injury. A fit Kolisi will not only be an asset purely based on his playing ability but also because of his inspirational leadership. Although Kolisi has not had much game time, his presence alone will give them extra wings. In Kolisi’s extended cameo in the Farewell Test against Argentina, he showed no sign of rustiness and hopefully, he would be firing at all cylinders.
Pieter-Steph du Toit
Hands down South Africa’s best player over the last three years, Du Toit is possibly the only Springbok player that will make a World XV team. If the brutish blond serves up the same spirited performances from the last few years, he will both be the rebar and the concrete for the Boks. Du Toit can slot in at the side of the scrum and is equally comfortable in the heart of the scrum in the second row. It is the crunch matches against the All Blacks or in the play-offs that Du Toit will be needed most. The flag-bearer of South Africa’s strong-man reputation.
The Springbok flyhalf has in the past battled to produce on his promise but has found his groove in the Green and Gold over the last two years. Pollard finally buried the ghost of bad performances past with a match-winning display against Argentina in South America. He has been the Bulls’ talisman during this year’s Super Rugby campaign, and he would hopefully carry his form into the World Cup. Whether it is with the boot or as tactician, Pollard is a major Bok backer. An on-song Pollard will give the Boks the edge they need.
No explanation needed here. Looking at the scrumhalf’s three Tests, one might be cautious to get too excited too soon about the 23-year-old’s future, but ability like that doesn’t just fade, so let the excitement take over. Those few international spells have been enough to mark the Stormers representative as a key figure in the Boks’ World Cup hopes, and nobody can question why. While Faf de Klerk will in all likelihood still be Rassie’s No 1, Jantjies has proven that he can not only deliver when it comes to his basic duties, but also win you a game. And when is that ever not needed?
Call him Mr Finisher.
Nkosi has been an absolute gem for the Boks in 2019, and while his abilities could never really be doubted, he’s taken things to another level this year…or he just showed what he can do with enough ball. Given the wing options the Boks have at their disposal, things are looking very, very promising. While the Sharks winger has been a revelation with the tries he’s scored, his overall ability – that power, raw pace and physicality – makes him a threat any day of the World Cup week. He’s going to be vital.
Pieter-Steph du Toit
The one thing that’s become almost expected is a top performance from this man. Whether it’s Super Rugby or Test rugby, Du Toit has proven himself to be a Bok must. That work rate, hustle on defence and frustratingly endless tank (for the opposition, that is) will always make him a star player, and the fact that he ticks the rugby talent boxes doesn’t hurt either. Initially there was much debate as to which number should be on the forward’s back, but I think it safe to say that the digits don’t even matter anymore. He’s been that good, not necessarily just as a blindside flanker, but as a player in general.