Bok fullback: 7 options to replace Willie le Roux

Damian Willemse (Gallo)
Damian Willemse (Gallo)

Cape Town - Nothing has been confirmed yet, but there is a very good chance that the Springboks will be without Willie le Roux for their final two Rugby Championship matches against Australia and New Zealand. 

Le Roux has returned to Wasps in England where he is expected to play against the Sale Sharks this weekend, and his availability for the Boks beyond that is looking increasingly doubtful. 

It means that Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus will, in all likelihood, have to find a new No 15 for next weekend's clash against the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth. 

There are a number of options in the current squad, while he may also be tempted to look at bringing in someone from outside the current set-up. 

Here, we look at SEVEN of the options Erasmus has at his disposal should he need to field a new fullback. 

1. Damian Willemse

This is probably the most likely scenario given that Erasmus has been vocal throughout the Championship on his desire to give Willemse a run at fullback. His participation in the tournament so far has been limited, but Erasmus will not be afraid to throw Willemse into the deep end in at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. He has a big boot, genuine pace and a dangerous stepping game and it would be very interesting to see what he offers if given a start. 

2. Cheslin Kolbe

Kolbe has exploded onto the international stage and his performance as a second-half substitute in last weekend's win in Wellington was something special. There are many who believe that Kolbe's Bok debut was long overdue while there are also many who believe that fullback is his natural position. The pace and skill has never been an issue, but Kolbe's defensive frailties were exposed against the All Blacks on one occasion and that might count against him. 

3. Jesse Kriel

Unlikely, given that he has played at No 13 and on the wing in recent weeks, but Kriel can play fullback too. He showed a lot of promise against the All Blacks out wide with his direct, powerful running and physicality on defence noticeable. Erasmus probably won't want to move Kriel around too much, but his ability to cover at the back if needed will always make him an attractive selection. 

4. Dillyn Leyds 

Leyds is not part of the current Bok squad, but has been impressive for Western Province in their opening three Currie Cup matches. The 26-year-old has promised a lot for a long time, but he has never been given an extended, settled run in the national side. He is a hard worker and has an undeniable and natural flair, but the competition for places is strong in the Bok set-up and he seems to have fallen off the radar. 

5. Curwin Bosch

The Sharks fullback hasn't been in the best of form in the Currie Cup so far, but he was part of Erasmus' Bok squad that lost to Wales in the USA back in June. Bosch, like Leyds, has fallen out of favour at a national level, though. He has a big, accurate boot and also boasts plenty of pace, but his defensive and aerial games will likely mean that Erasmus looks elsewhere. 

6. Andries Coetzee

He may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Coetzee does have international experience and he has been at the heart of the Lions’ recent Super Rugby success. All 13 of Coetzee’s Test matches came under Allister Coetzee in 2017, but he doesn’t look to have been anywhere near the national side during that Erasmus era so far.

7. Frans Steyn

Wouldn't this be something? Steyn was a part of Erasmus' plans ahead of the June series against England, but that didn't materialise for whatever reason. He was not in the matchday squad in Montpellier's 55-13 loss to Lyon this past weekend, though, sparking speculation over his fitness. Steyn's Bok career did not get the end it should have, and he is a long shot if Montpellier would be prepared to release him for the next few weeks. 

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