<
>

De Klerk, Vermeulen likely to be part of the foreign legion who will boost the Springboks

France-based Springbok eighthman Duane Vermeulen will reportedly return to play in South Africa ahead of the 2019 Rugby World Cup. AFP PHOTO / DIARMID COURREGESDIARMID COURREGES/AFP/Getty Images

Unlike his predecessor Allister Coetzee, new Springbok boss Rassie Erasmus will have carte blanche when selecting overseas-based players for the South African national team.

While the 30-cap rule hasn't officially been abolished, it is understood that Erasmus will be able to pick any South African rugby player making a living abroad by getting special permission from SA Rugby.

But how many players plying their trade in Europe and Japan will Erasmus actually select for the one-off match against Wales in the United States and, probably more importantly, the three-Test series against England in June?

Erasmus revealed last week that he has spoken to about six or seven players such as utility back Frans Steyn, hooker Bismarck du Plessis, No 8 Duane Vermeulen, tighthead prop Vincent Koch, flyhalf Patrick Lambie, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and centre Juan de Jongh.

play
0:59

Erasmus: Maximum six guys spoken to

Rassie Erasmus explains his fact-finding mission to find out which South Africans playing overseas still want to feature for the Springboks.

"I'm not saying that all the players I mentioned will be in the mix in June. If the players we have here in South Africa are fit and in form, then those guys won't be in the mix," Erasmus told reporters.

"But I had to make sure if those guys are still hungry and motivated to play for the Springboks. It was more of a fact-finding mission."

Over the last couple of months Erasmus has held a series of 'alignments camps' to get the players up to speed with how he wants to play in June and what the players need to work on. There was a lot of theory involved in those camps with the different Super Rugby teams, as well as Ox Nche from the Cheetahs' PRO14 team.

Erasmus didn't say if he gave the overseas players the same sort of homework, but one would think the guys who he is serious about bringing back might have got an email from the coach.

There are certainly positions where overseas-based players can significantly bolster the Boks ahead of a big series against England, and also help the Bok coach pick a strong team for the Wales Test in Washington, DC.

Because the Boks will be travelling to the United States for the Test, and with it being played just a week before the first England Test in Johannesburg, Erasmus is likely to leave his big guns at home to prepare for Eddie Jones' charges.

Most of the focus will surely be on the Test against England.

Scrumhalf is the one position where Erasmus is certainly looking at overseas options. England-based No 9s Faf de Klerk and Cobus Reinach will more than likely find themselves back in the mix after some good performances this season.

Erasmus said last week that none of the current scrumhalves in the country has put their hands up for Bok selection so far this season, which is an indication that a player like De Klerk could start.

However, the Bok boss is spoiled for choice as far as the local flyhalves are concerned, with many players playing good rugby and putting in strong performances week in and week out in Super Rugby.

Handré Pollard is the favourite to wear the No 10 jersey, while Erasmus also hinted that he may be in line for the captaincy if No 8 Warren Whiteley isn't ready for the rigors of Test rugby in June.

Elton Jantjies and Sharks pivot Robert du Preez have also performed well this year, but a player such as France-based Lambie could still be in the mix to cover fullback and flyhalf.

Another player who can cover those positions is Montpellier's Frans Steyn, but he is likely to get the nod at inside centre for the Boks.

It seems like Erasmus will be looking to play two flyhalves in that 10-12 channel, and Steyn would slot in perfectly. He is a strong ball-carrier, but also boasts a powerful right boot, good distribution skills and a top rugby brain.

Whiteley's injury struggles will open the door for Toulon bruiser Duane Vermeulen, who will certainly add a lot of experience and grunt to the Bok back row. But the Bok captaincy, though, may not be possible at the moment, as Erasmus will likely pick a locally based player to lead the team. Koch is also likely to feature for the Boks at tighthead, but he is facing stiff competition from incumbent No 3 Wilco Louw and in-form Bulls prop Trevor Nyakane, who is playing some of the best rugby of his career.

Koch, who plays for Saracens in England, will bring plenty of experience to the part, especially as he plays against the England props on a weekly basis. However, he could be used as an impact player off the bench.

Possible Springbok team for first England Test:

15. Warrick Gelant (Bulls)
14. Ruan Combrinck (Lions)
13. Lukhanyo Am (Sharks)
12. Frans Steyn (Montpellier)
11. S'bu Nkosi (Sharks)
10. Handré Pollard (Bulls)
9. Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks)
8. Duane Vermeulen (Toulon)
7. Jean-Luc du Preez (Stormers)
6. Siya Kolisi (Stormers)
5. Lood de Jager (Bulls)
4. Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers)
3. Trevor Nyakane (Bulls)/Vincent Koch (Saracens)
2. Malcolm Marx (Lions)
1. Steven Kitshoff (Stormers)