Five fringe players who could make a big impression at the Rugby World Cup

Five fringe players who could make a big impression at the Rugby World Cup

The 33-man Springbok Rugby Cup squad is full of exceptional talent, but only 23 players can feature on match day.

Here, we take a look at five fringe players making their case to be included in the starting 23 at the Rugby World Cup in France.

Deon Fourie

The utility forward is enjoying a career renaissance, highlighted by becoming the oldest Springbok debutant at 35 years old when he ran onto the pitch as a replacement against Wales in Bloemfontein in 2022. And Fourie was lapping it up, as evident by the tears that streamed down his face during the anthem that day.

Covering hooker, flanker and No.8, Fourie's versatility is valuable to the squad. Four years ago in Japan, the Boks had a similar role for veteran Schalk Brits. But Fourie is also a menace at the breakdown, as he's shown since returning to the Stormers from France in 2021.

We expect the veteran to feature prominently in the pool games against Romania and Tonga, where his vast experience will prove invaluable.

Marco van Staden

The Krugersdorp behemoth enjoyed a meteoric rise, coming from university to the Springbok ranks in quick time. This was largely because of his blunt-nose performances at the Bulls, punctuated with relentless carries.

Van Staden has mostly made his Springbok appearances as part of the infamous Bomb Squad, but made the most of his first opportunity to start against Australia in the Rugby Championship in July. With his old Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen at his side, he terrorised the breakdown and beat five defenders in his eight carries.

The 28-year-old has one gear - top gear - and one direction - forward - and fans can certainly look forward to a rampaging van Staden in France.

Cobus Reinach

A long servant of South African rugby, Reinach narrowly missed out on a Springbok call-up for the 2015 RWC. But his pace and kicking saw him realise his World Cup dream in the Boks' successful 2019 campaign. It was successful for the No.9 as well, scoring a memorable hat-trick in the 66-7 routing of Canada.

On the club rugby scene, Reinach has been plying his trade for Montpellier, where he is a regular starter. For the Boks, however, the Bloemfontein native is favoured to come off the bench in order to take advantage of his pace and speedy service when the game opens up. Often running support lines, he has a nose for the try line, dotting down on nine occasions over the years.

Jean Kleyn

Kleyn is set to feature in his second RWC, but this time around he's in a better shade of green. Having forced his way into the Stormers' starting lineup in 2015, he was later scooped up by Munster where he made a new home for himself. The towering lock was then named in Ireland's 2019 RWC squad and became eligible just a month before their first game.

However, he soon fell out of favour. Then a change in World Rugby's eligibility rules - that Bok management actually voted against - meant Kleyn could run out for his country of birth. A newcomer to the Springbok setup, Kleyn has earned five caps but has quickly got up to speed, showing powerful carries and lineout nuance. With the injured Lood de Jager out of the squad, Kleyn has big shoes to fill.

Andre Esterhuizen

The centre just missed out on a call-up to the Springboks' 2019 RWC squad, fueling a move to Harlequins in England. Esterhuisen was quickly a smash hit, helping them to a Premiership Rugby title in his first season.

Since, Andre "the Giant" has continued to live up to his moniker with many a barnstorming run in the midfield. This was on show once again in the recent record win over New Zealand, where he made 91m from his eight carries and made 12 tackles.

A testament to the Boks' depth at centre, there have even been calls for Esterhuisen to start ahead of talisman Daniel de Allende.

READ MORE: Five Bok newcomers ready to make a splash at the Rugby World Cup