2023 Rugby World Cup: Five Springboks stars who could steal the show

2023 Rugby World Cup: Five Springboks stars who could steal the show

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber has assembled one of the strongest Rugby World Cup squads, packed full of talented superstars.

Here, SABC Sport takes a look at some of those stars that could shine brighter than the rest in France... 

Willie le Roux

Four years ago in Japan, the fullback was criticised for his performances in the tournament, which were forgotten when the Boks lifted the trophy. Soon after, it emerged that le Roux had been playing the entire campaign with a dodgy shoulder and he was still able to turn on the class.

Since, the unsung hero has emerged as the Boks assist King, with his creativity resulting in many tries for those around him. The silky runner has also been slotting into the flyhalf role to weave the tapestry of the Bok attack with some regularity, and on the counter-attack, he is often the chief instigator.

With hot-steppers Cheslin Kolbe and Kurt-Lee Arendse lurking on his wings, le Roux is set to be a key playmaker in France.

Siya Kolisi

Oh captain my captain. Is there a more inspirational leader in world rugby? Kolisi's mere presence lifts the Bok camp and their supporters. This was evident in the recent post-match interview after the Boks beat the All Blacks at Twickenham, where he had to pause for the rapturous applause from seemingly every South African in London. The openside flanker's star power knows no bounds.

And Kolisi backs it up on the field. After his near-miracle recovery from an ACL tear and no rugby since March, he was at his energetic best against Wales and New Zealand, assisting two tries, scoring one of his own and making 15 tackles in his 90-odd minutes of rugby.

There is no doubt that with their captain leading from the front, the Springboks are at their very best.

Eben Etzebeth

The time has come for Etzebeth to remind everyone why he is the best lock in world rugby. Despite heading to his third RWC, the Cape Town native is in his prime at 31 years young. The second rower has been managed carefully by the Bok's brains trust this season due to a shoulder injury, but will undoubtedly be unleashed from the outset in France.

In a pack full of already terrifying forwards, Etzebeth stands head and shoulders above them as the World Champions' chief enforcer, arguably second to none in world rugby. But he's dynamic as well, often found stealing lineouts or galloping along in open play with defenders on his back.

A long-time friend of his captain Kolisi, the pair are aiming for a second William Webb Ellis trophy together so they don't have to share.

Duane Vermeulen

The back-row behemoth is ready to put it all on the line for one final swansong. Despite being the oldest member of the Bok squad at 37-years-old, Vermeulen's barnstorming performances have kept the plethora of loose forward talent at bay and his game sharp at the same time. Apart from getting across the gain line, Vermeulen is a menace at the breakdown, earning two turnovers in the recent record win over the All Blacks.

The No.8 also has a wealth of experience to draw from, with 63 tests under his belt. There's World Cup experience to boot, as he was the Man of the Match in the 2019 RWC final, a most prestigious accolade. Don't bet against him putting together a similar performance this time around.

Pieter-Steph du Toit

The tireless blindside flanker is back to playing some of his best rugby. The 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year nearly lost his leg due to a rare syndrome in 2020, then underwent shoulder surgery in 2021. Now finally injury-free, du Toit is peaking at the right time for the Boks.

The workhorse has notched up some staggering numbers in his last two Tests, making 31 tackles, 20 carries and a key intercept that led to Jesse Kriel's try against Wales. With du Toit likely to have to go the full 80 minutes in key fixtures, he is set to play a pivotal role in the Boks RWC campaign and has ample time to prove he's back to world-class form.

Bubbling under...

Malcolm Marx

One of two Bok lineout snipers, Marx has improved immensely in this regard, averaging a very tidy 90% line-out accuracy in the Rugby Championship. Marx is also a fantastic ball carrier and often pops up out of the ruck having pilfered the opposition's ball.

Steven Kitshoff

It's no secret that the Boks will aim to dominate the setpieces and our very own Spicy Plum will be licking his lips come scrum time. The world's best loosehead often overpowers his opposite number and has a high work rate around the park as well.

By Doug Mattushek

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