Cape Town - While he hasn’t officially announced his international retirement, scrumhalf Fourie du Preez is unlikely to again feature for the Springboks.
Du Preez’s last Test was South Africa’s agonising 20-18 Rugby World Cup semi-final loss to New Zealand - a Test in which he sustained a bad facial injury that kept him out of their bronze medal clash against Argentina.
He said after the All Blacks Test: "I don't know if that was my last game, I'll see how the injury goes. That was probably my last game...”
Du Preez is now 33 years old and is likely to solely focus on his club duties in Japan for Suntory Sungoliath.
Ruan Pienaar stepped up to replace Du Preez in the Bronze Final win over Argentina but it’s perhaps time he also opts for the same route Du Preez is likely to take.
Pienaar’s form on the international stage has been a big talking point this year, with the lanky No 9’s slow service and at best average kicking game not able to get the Boks on the front foot.
Here follows a list of potential candidates for the Springbok No 9 jersey over the next few years:
The 10-Test capped Sharks No 9 was unlucky not to make the Springboks’ final 31-man Rugby World Cup squad.
He featured in Bok match-day squads in all four Tests leading up to the World Cup, but was then controversially left out at the expense of the Bulls’ Rudy Paige.
Reinach is only 25 and by the time the next World Cup comes along, he should be a Test veteran.
Faf de Klerk
The 24-year-old dazzled for the Lions in Super Rugby this year and was invited to subsequent Springbok training camps.
He is yet to make his Test debut but similar form next year will surely see him earn a first Test cap.
With the Olympic Games in mind, Hougaard has recently signed a sevens deal with the Blitzboks.
He has fallen out of favour with Bok coach Heyneke Meyer, but this writer feels he still has a lot to offer the 15-man game.
He was one of the standout scrumhalves in this year’s Currie Cup and the Bulls should continue to utilise him at No 9 - and not on the wing.
Paige impressed during Super Rugby and should have been given a chance in the Tests leading up to the World Cup.
With transformation a major talking point before the World Cup, Paige was picked in the Bok squad at the expense of Reinach. As expected, he didn’t get much game time in England, but his tactical kicking, speed to the breakdown and sharp service will make him a handy option in future.
The Bronze Final against Argentina was the ideal opportunity for Paige to get a chance, but he had to settle for a mere three minutes as Meyer banked on the experience of Pienaar.
After joining Western Province from Toulouse in France, the three-Test capped Vermaak didn’t have the best of Currie Cups - in part due to injury niggles as well as the coach’s backing of Nic Groom as WP's No 1 scrumhalf during the tournament.
Vermaak though is an experienced player and should be given more game time in Super Rugby next year.