etzebeth springboks crucial decisions
Eben Etzebeth. Image: X via Springboks

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Springboks get clarity on crucial position

A talented youngster has provided the Springboks with a timely answer just as questions lingered over a key position.

18-06-24 12:09
etzebeth springboks crucial decisions
Eben Etzebeth. Image: X via Springboks

The Springboks head towards the 2024 Test season with a lengthy injury list, while there is also a massive decision that will need to be made at No 8, particularly for the Incoming Series against Ireland.

With Duane Vermeulen having retired after last year’s World Cup, Jasper Wiese was the obvious successor. However, a red card he received at the backend of the English Premiership season has now seen him receive a six-game ban.

As a result, Wiese will miss the following the Springboks’ mid-year Tests against Wales, Ireland (two games) and Portugal. He will also miss the first two Rugby Championship fixtures against the Wallabies in Australia.

After all of that missed action, he may not automatically come back into the team, but the question has persisted: Who is the Springboks’ next best option at No 8.

Perhaps the safest bet will see Kwagga Smith deployed slightly out of position at No 8, but there are no shortage of other options.

There is Evan Roos, Elrigh Louw and even overseas-based Juarno Augustus, who would probably be a popular choice. Lions star Francke Horn or Sale Sharks stalwart Jean-Luc du Preez could be other left-field considerations.

However, at just the right time, rising star Cameron Hanekom may have provided the Springboks with the clearest answer to date after producing a stunning Man of the Match performance in the Bulls’ URC semi-final against Leinster this past weekend.


At the start of a new four-year World Cup, it would make sense for the Springboks to begin backing some newcomers, and Hanekom looks to have all the attributes that would appeal to the national coaches.

The 22-year-old boasts physicality, high work rate and is highly effective as both a ball carrier and strong defender. He also possesses that so-called ‘warrior spirit’ that the Springboks value so highly.

This quality was highlighted by Bulls coach Jake White immediately after the URC semi-final.

“(Leinster star) Josh van der Flier just said to me ‘what a guy. We tried to get into him, put him on the deck’. He kept coming back at them. Every time they put him down he kept on coming back.

“He will get better, he is 22 and he is currently keeping Marcell Coetzee out of the team,” White added. “He showed he can play at this level. It is probably the best he has played for us since he has come in. He has had moments when he has played well, but over the 80 minutes he was superb. He was man of the match and that is fantastic for us.”


The youngster is not available for the Springboks’ season-opener against Wales this Saturday due to the Bulls’ involvement in the URC final, but he should then come straight into the squad.

By all accounts, Hanekom is now the frontrunner to claim the Springboks’ No 8 jersey for the series against Ireland, although it will be interesting to see whether Rassie Erasmus would first want to integrate him into international action more gradually off the bench.