Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has the dual challenge in 2019 of being competitive at the World Cup as well as raising representation levels to a 50-50 split.
He’s had some success with players such as Siya Kolisi, Sbu Nkosi and Aphiwe Dyantyi, but needs more key men.
The good news for him is that he shouldn’t have to look far and wide to find them.
These five men have proven themselves in spurts and could fairly easily cement their places in the Green-and-Gold.
The really tantalising thing about the Sharks midfielder is the possibilities he presents if he can cement a place.
While he’s likely to play outside centre in Super Rugby, it’s at No 12 where he can add value to the Springbok cause.
Am is the type of playmaking centre that can add direction to the national side’s back play, while his robust defence is a good fit for the position.
Also, don’t forget his underrated poaching ability at the breakdowns. Given how the Bok midfield is hardly sewn up, Am should seize his chance.
The old rugby adage goes that props are only supposed to mature at the wrong side of 30.
In 2019, the versatile Bulls prop celebrates that age milestone. A fair amount has been invested in the man from Bushbuckridge over the years and by all accounts Nyakane has shown glimpses of his value in the past, particularly in being able to scrum on both sides.
That makes him an ideal “swinger”, particularly in a World Cup year.
Known for being a consistently strong scrummer, Nyakane can scale new heights if he stays fit and keeps up his work rate.
Much like Am, one can’t help but think inexperience shouldn’t count against the precocious Bulls halfback.
There was way too much evidence of potential class in the 21-year-old’s performances on the back end of the Boks’ year-end tour last season.
More importantly, South Africa’s reliance on Faf de Klerk suggests there are no other experienced backups at the moment that coach Rassie Erasmus truly trusts.
That swings the door wide open for Papier, who’s probably guaranteed a spot even if he just makes steady progress.
But he’ll try to go big…
It’s difficult to judge whether the 20-year-old playmaker will experience a more “stable” year in 2019.
After all, 2018’s Super Rugby campaign was actually very much so for him given that he was first choice flyhalf for the Stormers.
In fact, one could argue, his positional merry-go-round started once he came into the Springbok camp.
Fullback seems to be where Willemse’s immediate future at international level lies.
Hopefully the Stormers will employ him there as he’ll enjoy the extra space the No 15 jersey offers, especially with his skillset.
Notshe is cursed to be playing in a position that has an oversupply of world-class performers. However, what makes the Stormers stalwart a fascinating option is his versatility.
He’s an accomplished opensider with an explosive streak as well as a high work rate.
No 8 though remains his preferred position and that’s where he’ll find his bread properly buttered in 2019.
Given Warren Whiteley’s wonky status as an international eighthman, Notshe – bolstered by a stint with the Blitzboks – could usurp him and compete head-on with Duane Vermeulen.