Johannesburg - Lions flanker Kwagga Smith has emerged as the possible beneficiary should Sharks flanker Jean-Luc du Preez be unfit to tour with the Springboks on their end-of-year tour following his injury during the Currie Cup final.
Du Preez cried off with what appeared to be an ankle injury after just 22 minutes in the Currie Cup final, leaving the door open for national sevens team player Smith – who is understood to be the standby player for loosies – to tour with the Boks and possibly make his debut.
Deal with Coetzee
The 34-man squad, which play against Ireland (November 11), France (Nov 18), Italy (Nov 25) and Wales (December 2) and will be named at 13:00 on Sunday, has another surprise in that it is rumoured inside centre Jan Serfontein won’t be in it.
Serfontein, who signed for Montpellier during Super Rugby season and subsequently has the 30 caps that qualify him to be called up by the Boks for the tour, is said to have a deal with Bok coach Allister Coetzee not to play for the Boks as he seeks to cement his place at his club.
Word is that he will be replaced by Cheetahs captain Francois Venter, who pips Rohan Janse van Rensburg in the race to fill that spot.
In what probably amounts to a nod to consistency, the long-awaited inclusion of Sharks centre Lukhanyo Am and Blue Bulls fullback Warrick Gelant are the nearest thing to surprises in the squad.
Sent back to union
After an impressive Super Rugby campaign, Coetzee selected Am for his very first squad of the season, but a fractured eye-socket the very same weekend he was picked put paid to his hopes of making his debut for the Boks and giving them a natural outside centre option.
The gifted Gelant, who led most of the attacking stats in the Currie Cup with 10 tries during the round robin stages was also called into the camp for observation but sent back to his union.
With Smith, the two will be joined by other would-be new caps in fellow Sharks Louis Schreuder (scrumhalf) and Dan du Preez (eighthman).
Du Preez, who has been part of the squad since Bok captain Warren Whiteley was injured in June without going on to play a Test, will share the number eight duties with Uzair Cassiem. Schreuder was in the extended Bok squad that played the last two home Tests but didn’t play.
Curwin Bosch, who played less than a handful of minutes for the Boks against Argentina in Port Elizabeth, will be preferred to the twins’ elder brother Rob despite the latter playing an influential role in Western Province winning the Currie Cup and the youngster folding under the pressure.
Sharks winger Sbu Nkosi would have been another uncapped player included in the team had he not injured his elbow in the semi-final against the Bulls.
There is also a return from injury for tighthead prop Coenie Oosthuizen, who had played like a man reborn early in the Boks’ season before breaking his arm in the drawn Test against Australia in Perth. Not so lucky are skipper Warren Whiteley (pelvis), Jaco Kriel (shoulder) and Frans Malherbe (neck).
Despite having the opportunity to call upon the many Boks plying their trade in Europe, Coetzee and his selectors have opted to stick to the three players with overseas interests in their squad, flanker Francois Louw, flyhalf Elton Jantjies and lock Franco Mostert.
The three won’t be available for the fourth and final game of the tour, against Wales on December 2, as it falls outside World Rugby’s international window period.
Assistant coach Brendan Venter has recused himself from the Test against Italy, a team he also consults for as defence coach. Having vowed never to coach against the Boks again after helping the Italians to their first ever win against Coetzee’s team last year, he won’t be in their coaching box either.
What seems to be a mystery at SA Rugby, for some reason, is whether he is available for the last Test against Wales.