Home Sport Etzebeth a front-runner to lead Boks against Wales

Etzebeth a front-runner to lead Boks against Wales

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It is looking more likely that Sharks captain Eben Etzebeth will lead the Boks at Twickenham. The 32-year-old recently led the Sharks to Challenge Cup glory and he will not be short of leadership experience in Mbonambi and Pieter-Steph du Toit.

South Africa’s lock Eben Etzebeth (centre) looks like a likely candidate for the Springbok captaincy for the Test against Wales. File Picture: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT, AFP

Mike Greenaway

THE FAST-approaching June 22 Test between the Springboks and Wales in London could see Eben Etzebeth captaining the side and Malcolm Marx returning from the knee injury that cut short his World Cup.

We will likely see a new halfback pairing in Faf de Klerk at scrumhalf and Siya Masuku at No.10. The back-up to this combination will depend on how quickly the Sharks’ scrumhalf pair of Jaden Hendrikse and Grant Williams recover from injuries and whether coach Erasmus wants to give Sanele Nohamba a shot at flyhalf and/or No.9.

The friendly falls outside of the international window and that means this game is about Erasmus testing his depth ahead of the huge series against Ireland and the crunch Rugby Championship clashes with the All Blacks.

Despite not playing for nine months, two-time Springbok world champion Marx is set to warm up for Ireland and New Zealand with a cameo in this match. The 29-year-old hooker last played on September 10 against Scotland.

Further, Erasmus will not want to call on the Bulls and Stormers players who could be involved deep into the play-offs of the United Rugby Championship.

The Bok coach will prefer to focus on the players who he definitely will have and that is his resources at the Sharks, Lions, Cheetahs, and the players who have just concluded the season in Japan. Erasmus’ need to get Marx up and running means he will be preferred to Bongi Mbombami who, in any case, has carried a heavy workload of late for the Sharks.

Mbonambi has been touted as a probable captain of the Springboks as Erasmus considers his long-term leadership options.

It is looking more likely that Sharks captain Etzebeth will lead the Boks at Twickenham. The 32-year-old recently led the Sharks to Challenge Cup glory and he will not be short of leadership experience in Mbonambi and Pieter-Steph du Toit.

With Siya Kolisi already unavailable, Mbonambi, Du Toit and Etzebeth are the front-runners to lead the team. At flyhalf, Handre Pollard, Manie Libbok and Johan Goosen are not available for the Wales game and that opens the door for Masuku, who is the find of the season.

Erasmus will not be short of options for the trip to Twickenham given that the Japan contingent includes Damian de Allende, Kwagga Smith, who is back from injury, Du Toit, Franco Mostert and Cheslin Kolbe.

There are players at the Lions who have put their hands up in Morne van den Berg, Nohamba, Edwill van der Merwe and Francke and Quan Horn.

The Sharks are brimming with talent. There is a case for a recall at fullback for Aphelele Fassi, while veteran Lukhanyo Am is almost over his shoulder injury. Vincent Koch has been in the form of his life alongside Mbonambi and Ox Nche while wild cards could be No.8 Phepsi Buthelezi, and flank James Venter.

Ntuthuko Mchunu, the Sharks’ loosehead, is also excellent cover and maybe even hooker Fez Mbatha can get a look in.

Meanwhile, Wales coach Warren Gatland insisted yesterday his side were “building towards” the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

Wales are looking to bounce back from a dismal Six Nations where they finished when they lost all five matches to finish bottom for the first time since 2003.

“I think everyone appreciates and realises we’re building towards 2027,” said Gatland, after announcing his initial 36-man squad for a one-off international against the world champion Springboks at Twickenham on June 22 and a two-Test tour of Australia in July.

Wales squad

Backs: Jacob Beetham, Ellis Bevan (both Cardiff), Sam Costelow, Gareth Davies (both Scarlets), Rio Dyer (Dragons), Keelan Giles (Ospreys), Mason Grady (Cardiff), Kieran Hardy (Scarlets), Josh Hathaway (Gloucester), Ben Thomas (Cardiff), Nick Tompkins (Saracens), Owen Watkin (Ospreys), Liam Williams (Kubota Spears), Cameron Winnett (Cardiff)

Forwards: Keiron Assiratti (Cardiff), Ben Carter, Elliot Dee (both Dragons), Corey Domachowski (Cardiff), Archie Griffin (Bath), Cory Hill (Secom Rugguts), Dafydd Jenkins (Exeter Chiefs), Dewi Lake (Ospreys), Dillon Lewis (Harlequins), Evan Lloyd, Mackenzie Martin (both Cardiff), Kemsley Mathias (Scarlets), Jac Morgan (Ospreys), Harri O’Connor (Scarlets), Sam Parry (Ospreys), Taine Plumtree (Scarlets), Tommy Reffell (Leicester Tigers), Matthew Screech (Dragons), Gareth Thomas (Ospreys), Henry Thomas (Castres), Christ Tshiunza (Exeter Chiefs), Aaron Wainwright (Dragons)

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additional reporting by AFP

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