Five key Springboks in Japan

Five key Springboks in Japan

Siya Kolisi. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

Yes, rugby’s a team game. But it has its stars too.

The tension is mounting as the Springboks’ opening Rugby World Cup clash against New Zealand in Yokohama on Saturday creeps ever closer. Our chief rugby writer takes a look at five of the national team’s most influential go-to players at the tournament.

CHESLIN KOLBE

Cheslin Kolbe. (Photo by Koki Nagahama/Getty Images)

While there were doubters when coach Rassie Erasmus called the diminutive former Stormers fullback into the Bok squad last season, he has in a fairly short period cemented his place as probably their best winger.

He has a strike rate of five tries in 10 Test matches and his work-rate on defence and under the high ball has been immense.

The Toulouse player scored spectacular tries last year against the All Blacks in Wellington and recently against Japan, underlining his ability in no uncertain terms.

HANDRE POLLARD

Handre Pollard. (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

The former Bulls captain is entering his second World Cup and already in 2015 it was known that previous Bok coach Heyneke Meyer saw Pollard emerging as one of the top No 10s in world rugby and a future Bok skipper.

Pollard has been in brilliant form since taking over the No 10 jumper from Elton Jantjies and his immaculate goal-kicking, sound game management and ability to vary his game by launching perfectly executed kick-passes has set him apart and Erasmus will hope his match-winner remains injury-free.

SIYA KOLISI

South Africa’s first black Test captain will look to follow in the footsteps of Francois Pienaar and Jon Smit by guiding the Springboks to a World Cup title.

The Stormers flanker, who wears the same number six as Pienaar did in 1995, has been a key part of the Erasmus-led turnaround of the national team after pitiful defeats to Italy and Wales in the space of seven days in November 2016.

Kolisi missed the last-gasp draw with New Zealand in June but was at his all-encompassing best in the victory over the All Blacks last September, a side they will face again in Japan in their opening pool match.

A lot of his most important work is done in the shadows but he stands out  as a ball-carrier an abrasive forward pack.

MALCOLM MARX

Malcolm Marx. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

The powerfully built Lions hooker has made a name for himself worldwide by being almost immovable when he contests for possession at the breakdown, and he has been superb for the Boks by winning crucial turnovers at game defining moments.

When the All Blacks beat the Boks by one point late in 2017 in Cape Town, the New Zealand media dubbed Marx as the top No 2 in world rugby.

As a former loose forward, his lineout throw-ins are a work in progress, but his contribution could ultimately prove crucial.

PIETER-STEPH DU TOIT

Pieter-Steph du Toit (R). (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP)

He must be one of the biggest blindside flankers in world rugby with his imposing 2m, 119kg frame, but Du Toit’s high mobility and his skills as a ball-carrier have made him a hit.

At 26 he was twice in the last three seasons named SA Rugby Player of the Year and it’s unimaginable that his best position was once at lock, where he made his debut against Wales in Cardiff in 2013.

Last weekend against Japan, Du Toit played his 50th Test, but it could have been many more if not for the knee injuries which have hampered his career.

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