Wales opener has 2018 deja vu written all over it

rugby22 February 2024 06:14| © SuperSport
By:Brenden Nel
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© Gallo Images

The announcement of the Wales test to kick off the new World Cup cycle for coach Rassie Erasmus has a sense of deja vu, and is certainly going to test the Springboks ahead of a tough two test series against Ireland a few weeks later.

The Boks will head to Twickenham for the money spinner as part of a double header with Fiji and the Barbarians in what promises to be a fun afternoon of rugby in the English capital, but comes with an element of danger as well.

But that was pretty much the same in 2018 when the Boks faced the same Wales in Washington, and while they had suffered a 22-20 loss, the test answered a lot of questions for Erasmus ahead of bigger challenges to come.

And while the takeaway was more about who didn’t last in Springbok plans, the test unearthed a few gems as well.


Kwagga Smith made his debut in the Washington test before going on to be a double World cup winner while Ox Nche’s performance on debut would be the catalyst to destroying an England scrum to turn a World Cup semifinal five years later.

But overwhelmingly so the team that faced Wales on that day has faded into obscurity, bar a few more players who were always destined to be part of the Boks’ long term plans.

Pieter-Steph du Toit needs no introduction, and captained that team in Washington while the familiar Bok faces of Jesse Kriel and Andre Esterhuizen also donned Green and Gold that day. Esterhuizen was also making his debut for the Boks while Makazole Mapimpi was on the wing and on debut as well.

But the test also featured the likes of Curwin Bosch at 15, Travis Ismaiel, Ivan van Zyl, Dan du Preez, Oupa Mohoje, Wilco Louw, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Jason Jenkins while on the bench Embrose Papier, Robert du Preez and Warrick Gelant stand out.

This time around Erasmus will have to box smart as well, especially with the test being played on the same day as the Vodacom United Rugby Championship final - and if a South African franchise is involved, it would mean their players are naturally unavailable.

Then there is the small matter of not having any European or Japanese based players unless their season has ended.


In the end it is likely to be a young, locally based team that will plot the future in the test, and give a glimpse of what Erasmus and his coaches are looking for in the next four years. The locally based Boks are likely to be there - especially those from the Sharks, while a number of players could again make their debuts in the test.

Erasmus will need to box clever, but has the advantage of having six years at the helm and a core group of players who know exactly what he wants from them, as well as the excitement of a new bunch of players who will be coming through.

And if it unearths a new Ox Nche, or a new Makazole Mapimpi, Andre Esterhuizen or the like, then the test would be worth it, whatever the result.

And if it answers questions about others that may not make it, that would be valuable as well.

Either way it will be fascinating to watch.

And as Twickenham looms, take a look at the match day 23 for Wales in 2018, and how different it was back then, who made it and who didn’t. That in itself is a lesson well learnt that was part of the Boks epic journey over the last two World Cups.

Springboks to face Wales in Washington DC 2018: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Oupa Mohojé, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit (c), 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Ox Nche.

Subs: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Rob du Preez, 23 Warrick Gelant.