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Boks’ World Cup squad has already taken shape

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Bongi Mbonambi impressed on the end-of-year tour, and will provide back-up in all probability.

Aphiwe Dyantyi of South Africa dives in to score during the 2018 Rugby Championship game between South Africa and Australia at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on 29 September 2018.

Although the Springboks ended the 2018 season with a disappointing defeat to Wales, there is no doubt that coach Rassie Erasmus would have already formulated a very clear idea of his 2019 World Cup squad.

It was quite revealing to see that no less than eight players failed to receive any game time on the recently concluded end-of-year tour, with Erasmus prioritising a desire to continue building momentum.

One of the real positives from the November internationals was the progression of Embrose Papier, who now looks certain to head to the World Cup as the back-up scrumhalf to Faf de Klerk. Handré Pollard will in all likelihood head to the global showpiece as the first-choice flyhalf, with Elton Jantjies providing cover.

Damian de Allende seems to be the front-runner to retain the No 12 jersey, but the outside centre berth does appear to still be up for grabs, with little to choose between Lukhanyo Am and Jesse Kriel, although both should travel to Japan.

The back three of Aphiwe Dyantyi, S’bu Nkosi and Willie le Roux look to have cemented their positions, although Cheslin Kolbe is providing some competition for a right wing berth after impressing through each opportunity he has received this year.

When one looks at the pack, props Beast Mtawarira, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe and Vincent Koch look set to crack the nod for World Cup selection, while Wilco Louw, Trevor Nyakane and Thomas du Toit also remain in the running.

Malcolm Marx is the unequivocal first-choice selection at hooker, while Bongi Mbonambi impressed on the end-of-year tour, and will provide back-up in all probability.

In the second row, Eben Etzebeth and RG Snyman are set to serve as options at No 4, while Franco Mostert has earned first rights to the No 5 jersey. Pieter-Steph du Toit does provide valuable second-row cover, but has cemented his place at blindside flank through a host of outstanding performances in 2018.

As Bok captain, Siya Kolisi has settled at openside flank and is an obvious World Cup pick, with Duane Vermeulen set to be the first-choice No 8.

There are just four Tests to go before the 2019 World Cup, and while the likely starting line-up looks to have taken shape, there are still some positions up for grabs in the wider 31-man group.