Boks announce 33-man squad as World Cup defence looms

rugby08 August 2023 12:09| © SuperSport
By:Gavin Rich
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© Gallo Images

Siya Kolisi, Makazole Mapimpi and Eben Etzebeth brought the loudest cheers as the Springbok 33-man World Cup squad was announced at Multichoice City in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

While there was disappointment for the likes of Handre Pollard, Lukhanyo Am and Lood de Jager - who missed out due to injury concerns - there was plenty to celebrate as coach Jacques Nienaber revealed the players he hopes can defend their title won in Japan four years ago.

Every Rugby World Cup match from France LIVE only on SuperSport, on DStv. First match is on Friday, 8 September, with the Boks starting on the Sunday.

Pollard’s absence means Damian Willemse has been penned in as a flyhalf back-up for Manie Libbok, who now finds himself as the frontline Bok No10 as the South Africans go out to defend the title they won on that emotional and memorable day in Yokohama four years ago.

Libbok excelled for the DHL Stormers over the first two seasons of the Vodacom United Rugby Championship but he only made his first start for the Boks in the opening game of 2023 against Australia.


His selection is a reward for the hard work Libbok has put in as well as a tribute to way the Stormers have developed him since he moved to Cape Town from Durban two years ago. Given the responsibility he will now carry, it is fortunate that last year’s injury to Pollard offered a gap for Libbok to develop and gain experience as an international flyhalf.

Willemse was expected to be named as a utility back and should still be in the frame to be a fullback alternative to Willie le Roux, but he has been listed as a flyhalf, and could well find himself returning to the No10, where he played all the tests on the last end of year tour and also more recently against the All Blacks in Auckland, should Libbok falter.

The absence of Am, arguably the outside back with the most creative X-factor, is partially offset by the good form shown by Jesse Kriel, first as a starter in the Johannesburg Rugby Championship game against the Pumas and then as a replacement in the warm-up game against the same opponents in Argentina.

It would be ironic if he is being presented with his chance because of an injury to Am, as Kriel, along with prop Trevor Nyakane, had to leave the Japan World Cup early because of injury. Nyakane has made the cut to make up for missing out after the first round game against New Zealand in 2019, with Thomas du Toit, called to Japan as a replacement four years ago, listed again as one of the group of standby players.


De Jager’s absence makes it fortunate that RG Snyman is back playing again after a three-year struggle with injuries, but the Munster lock has been used mainly as a substitute impact player so it seems likely that Marvin Orie will wear the No5 jersey in the big games. Either that or Franco Mostert, who has played most of his recent rugby at blindside flank, could return to his initial position, and he has been listed as a utility forward rather than as a loose forward.

There was good reason though that De Jager displaced Mostert as the starting lock in 2019 and he has much greater on-field presence than Orie, who has been a problem when it comes to penalties on occasions for both the Stormers and the Boks.

Talking of lock, Munster lock Jean Kleyn has been included in the group as a reward for his two strong contributions in his two games for the Boks so far. He was previously capped for Ireland. Interestingly, three of the four locks are overseas based, with the Cell C Sharks’ Eben Etzebeth the only exception.

The selection of 20-year-old Canan Moodie was expected after his excellent showing last time out in Buenos Aires and is just reward for both his form and his ability.


In all there are 22 players in the squad who picked up experience of playing at a World Cup and winning it at the last global showpiece event four years ago, which is a big plus. They include Siya Kolisi, who captained the side to glory in the 2019 final in Yokohama, an indication that he must be progressing well on his recovery from the serious injury suffered playing for the Cell C Sharks.

Kolisi, along with Orie who previously played for the Stormers, is now one of the overseas based players as his contract with Racing 92 would have kicked in on 1 July. Orie is headed to Perpignan next season. Former Stormers captain Steven Kitshoff is now of course listed as an Ulster player, so it is interesting to note that there are 16 overseas based players in the 33-man squad, just under half. The spread was balanced out by Vincent Koch and Willie le Roux now being contracted to the Sharks and Bulls respectively.

There are four scrumhalves in the squad and two hookers, one more than the usual for World Cup squad when it comes to the former and one less when it comes to the latter. Deon Fourie, the Stormers flank, will cover both loose-forward and hooker and joins Mostert in being listed as a utility forward.


Am and Pollard have been included in a group of five players who will leave South Africa with the squad on Saturday ahead of the two remaining warmup games, against Wales in Cardiff on 19 August and New Zealand in London on 25 August.

That suggests that they will be continuing with rehabilitation from injuries and may be called on if their recoveries go smooth enough and there are injuries during the World Cup. They, along with De Jager, are also in a group of nine players placed on standby.

However, for them to feature at the World Cup would now require someone in the 33-man squad named on Tuesday to be injured during the tournament. The World Cup rules are quite strict when it comes to the naming of the squad and who can be used after that.

The following nine players are on standby: Joseph Dweba (hooker), Lukhanyo Am (centre), Lood de Jager (lock), Jean-Luc du Preez (utility forward), Thomas du Toit (prop), Herschel Jantjies (scrumhalf), Handre Pollard (flyhalf), Evan Roos (No8), and Gerhard Steenekamp (prop).