South Africa vs. England: Springboks need to develop scrumhalf depth for Rugby World Cup

Embrose Papier passes the ball during the South Africa captain's run at Newlands Stadium on June 22, 2018. David Rogers/Getty Images

It's maybe a bit premature to suggest that Rassie Erasmus has a good idea of how the spine of his team is going to look like at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan after only three Tests in charge of the Springboks.

But it's more than likely true.

If fit, hookers Malcolm Marx and Bongi Mbonambi will be in Japan. There are a plethora of great locks to choose from, while Duane Vermeulen has got the No. 8 jersey locked up in his cupboard. Faf de Klerk has done more in the past two years at scrumhalf than any other player since Fourie du Preez put his boots away after the 2015 World Cup.

Handré Pollard has got the inside track as far as the No. 10 jersey is concerned, and Willie le Roux has proven to be an inspired choice at fullback.

But what about their deputies? Who are the men who can come to the rescue in the event of a crisis? Who can step up to the plate if De Klerk or Le Roux suffers an injury in the first minute of the World Cup final against the All Blacks?

A few candidates will be on show when in the third Test between the Springboks and England at Newlands on Saturday afternoon.

Victories in the first two Tests in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, where the Springboks secured the series, have given Erasmus the luxury of making changes and having a look at a couple of talented players to see how they cope at this level and in the expected wet conditions at Newlands.

"The best thing is to put these guys out there," Erasmus said at Thursday's team announcement. "It might rain at the World Cup, and if they want to be in the World Cup squad they need to overcome the wet-weather pressure and lots of other factors."

Good depth at scrumhalf is especially key for the Boks after going through a bit of a drought as far as quality international No. 9s are concerned. When South Africa had a world-class scrumhalf in their ranks in 1995 and 2007 they walked away with the World Cup.

De Klerk looks like he has turned the corner after being thrown under the bus following the Springboks' disastrous Rugby Championship campaign in 2016. He looks like his feisty self, and has added a top kicking game to his repertoire.

De Klerk will start his third Test in a row against England on Saturday, but all eyes will be on his deputy on the bench.

The 21-year-old Embrose Papier is set to play his second Test for the Boks when he comes off the bench on Saturday. But it will hopefully be in his natural position at scrumhalf.

Papier , who for a long time has been earmarked for great things. made his Springboks debut on the wing in the second half of their Test against Wales in the U.S. He made one impressive run when he showcased his blinding speed, but otherwise wasn't much involved during the defeat.

The former South Africa Under-20 player, who replaces his Bulls teammate Ivan van Zyl in the Boks' match-day squad, is a top talent. He is a quick player and a real threat around the rucks. He is also a brave little player, and not scared to tackle or get stuck in at ruck time.

But he is not quite the finished product. In fact, he is still a rough diamond who needs a lot more polishing to become a world-class player. But he is a talent who certainly excites Erasmus.

"Embrose is lightning fast, one of the fastest guys in the team," Erasmus said.

"He's a youngster who obviously has some work-ons, in terms of his passing and box-kicking.

"But he is a naturally attack-minded player who can speed up the game, while he understands the defensive system and tackles well.

"I think he has also been groomed really well at the Bulls by [coach] John Mitchell, who has managed his game time carefully. I'm sure he will make the odd mistake, but I'm really excited by his energy, speed and enthusiasm."

The fight for World Cup spots is going to be intense over the next year, and a talented player such as Papier needs to take advantage of all the chances that go his way.