World Cup years are, understandably, all about continuity.
In an ideal world, a coach would’ve had four years to formulate his masterplan and to determine the group of 30 players suited to executing that to the minutest detail.
South Africa is not in that position.
Coach Rassie Erasmus has only been afforded just over 18 months to mould a Springbok team that has to be competitive in Japan later this year.
And there are still problem positions, meaning he might still have to cast his net reasonably wide.
Here are four players that have caught the eye – on the condition that they haven’t played in the Green-and-Gold yet.
CARLU SADIE (LIONS)
Whether the Lions manage to keep him or the Stormers gain a more experienced, classy performer, there’s little doubt that the 21-year-old has been an outstanding performer in 2019.
Sadie, loaned for the season, has arguably already accomplished what he set out to do this season.
He’s put himself on the map and his form has been so compelling that he’s now suddenly forced himself into the national reckoning.
Despite seemingly being built more like a baobab than a modern prop, Sadie is a superb athlete.
He’s made 68 tackles, five of them dominant and only missed five. He’s carried 30 times, scored two tries and shown a penchant for being a poacher at the breakdowns.
Importantly, Sadie has been an excellent scrummer too.
He’s rapidly not becoming someone merely for the future.
LIZO GQOBOKA (BULLS)
The mobile loosehead from Loftus has been part of the Springbok conversation for quite a few years now, only to be undermined by his own poor injury record.
Yet this year has seen the 29-year-old keep his fitness and, as a result, he’s flourished.
Franchise coach Pote Human has called him a “dream” to work with and Gqoboka has clearly shifted up a gear in the scrums with the arrival of set-piece guru Daan Human.
Crucially, Gqoboka is a specialist No 1, a position that has shot up in importance given an overall lack of depth nationally as well as Beast Mtawarira’s fitness concerns.
In addition to his fine scrummaging, Gqoboka has carried the ball 56 times, made an impressive 336 metres, has made four linebreaks and broken five tackles.
Don’t forget his 66 tackles – six of them dominant.
He’s truly the definition of dynamic.
HERSCHEL JANTJIES (STORMERS)
When this pocket rocket was loaned to Welsh giants Llanelli Scarlets late in 2017 for a Pro14 game, many were asking: Who?
It took another year for that question to be answered, but the broader public is now very much aware of the scrumhalf.
The 23-year-old has been the form local player in his position, almost seamlessly adapting to the taxing demands of Super Rugby.
He’s shown great composure in scoring two match-winning tries during this campaign, but it’s his overall skill that’s impressed.
Jantjies’ service is snappy, his work rate high and his tactical kicking surprisingly effective for such a young man.
He’d be well worth a look at national level as a future option.
BURGER ODENDAAL (BULLS)
He’s not considered particularly high up in the pecking order, but the lanky, dependable Bulls midfielder is a very good player.
What counts in Odendaal’s favour is that he plies his trade in a position where the Springboks still can’t find more permanent solutions.
With Rassie Erasmus’ favouring more robust players in the No 12 jersey, Odendaal fits the bill quite well.
But he has experience at 13 as well, meaning he could provide depth there too should Jesse Kriel struggle with his fitness.
The 26-year-old has been one of the best attackers in the competition in the past few weeks and has garnered an impressive 446m running metres and puncture defences well.
His defence is solid and he possesses a keen mind, one a fellow rugby scholar in John Mitchell valued highly.
Odendaal’s selection is unlikely, but it won’t ever be a wasted one.