Six Springboks crack nod in our World XV

Duane Vermeulen (Getty)
Duane Vermeulen (Getty)

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown the 2020 rugby calendar into disarray and left the sport's top brass scrambling for ideas and proposals to ensure the year has some sort of value.

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It remains an open question if the world champion Springboks will be in action in 2020 and whether there will be any Test rugby at all.

To keep fans interested, Sport24 has picked a World XV based on the form of Test players over the past year.

The team features six Springboks, five All Blacks, three Englishmen and one Fijian.

15 Beauden Barrett (New Zealand - 83 Tests)

The best rugby player in the world has been trialled more at fullback than his regular flyhalf spot in recent times.

Barrett has played eight of his last nine Tests in the No 15 jumper and that's also where he's been utilised by the Blues in Super Rugby Aotearoa.

He's probably not the best tactical flyhalf and therefore one feels the fullback position may be where his future lies.

However, Barrett's abilities with ball in hand remain unmatched in the global game.

14. Cheslin Kolbe (South Africa - 14 Tests)

South Africa's pocket rocket has proved all doubters over his size wrong.

Standing a meagre 1.71m and 80kgs, Kolbe punches well above his weight and his speed, agility and all-round skill make him the world's best right wing at present.

Kolbe hardly misses a tackle and the Toulouse flyer fully deserved his French Top 14 Player of the Season accolade last year.

13. Manu Tuilagi (England - 44 Tests)

After years of injury woes and disciplinary battles, Tuilagi has taken the Test scene by storm in recent years.

It always takes a man or two to bring him down and he's been a catalyst on attack for England.

12. Owen Farrell (England - 87 Tests)

Despite a nightmare World Cup final, Farrell has been a key playmaker for England in the Eddie Jones era, be it at flyhalf or inside centre.

Apart from the odd "no arms" tackle, Farrell is a potent defensive weapon in midfield and his kicking prowess - whether in the flyhalf or inside centre channel - is vital to his team's cause.

11. Semi Radradra (Fiji - 10 Tests)

The 28-year-old was unbelievable at last year's World Cup in Japan. He may play Test rugby for a minnow nation, but the league convert has been a phenomenon since switching codes in 2017.

Radradra just pips South Africa's Makazole Mapimpi and Wales' Josh Adams, who was the top try-scorer at the World Cup.

10. Richie Mo'unga (New Zealand - 17 Tests)

It's a pity South Africa's Handre Pollard isn't playing rugby at the moment, because Mo'unga has been red-hot for the Crusaders in Super Rugby Aotearoa. He has forced Barrett to the fullback position for New Zealand's last five Tests and started 2020 where he left off in 2019.

Apart from being a reliable goal-kicker and shrewd tactical kicker, Mo'unga also possesses X-factor and is a player capable of sparking something out of nothing. The Crusaders' 26-15 win over the Blues last Saturday was a perfect case in point (READ more here).

9. Aaron Smith (New Zealand - 92 Tests)

The All Blacks star remains the scrumhalf with the crispest service in world rugby. Smith always keeps opposition defences busy with his sniping breaks around the fringes and is arguably the game's best organiser from the base of the scrum.

8. Duane Vermeulen (South Africa - 54 Tests, captain)

A hard-as-nails eighthman who should always be one of the first names on a coach's team-sheet. He was a key cog in South Africa's 2019 World Cup triumph and will go down as an all-time great.

The 34-year-old will captain this side.

7. Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa - 55 Tests)

Without doubt the best rugby player on the planet in 2019 and fully deserved his World Rugby Player of the Year accolade. Du Toit's versatility - he can also slot in at lock - makes him a certain starter in a World XV.

6. Tom Curry (England - 23 Tests)

One of England's best players over the past year, the 22-year-old has the rugby world at his feet.

He was rightly nominated for last year's World Rugby Player of the Year award and will form a potent loose forward combination alongside the two Springbok greats.

5 Brodie Retallick (New Zealand - 81 Tests)

A perfect combination of power and athleticism, the All Blacks veteran would form an impressive second row partnership with South Africa's Eben Etzebeth.

4. Eben Etzebeth (South Africa - 85 Tests)

Arguably the most physical lock in world rugby, while Etzebeth's added mobility and skillset set him apart from contemporaries.

3. Frans Malherbe (38 Tests)

The powerful tighthead was one of the unsung heroes of last year's World Cup and played a big part in destroying the England scrum during the final in Yokohama. Just pips Ireland's Tadgh Furlong and England's Kyle Sinckler.

2. Bongi Mbonambi (36 Tests)

What a rise it's been for the burly Stormers No 2, whose recent heroics have kept Malcolm Marx out of the Springbok starting XV.

It was not so long ago that Marx was described as the best hooker in world rugby, however, Mbonambi has hardly set a foot wrong on the Test stage.

He is a strong ball-carrier and scrummager, is sound on defence and has markedly improved his lineout accuracy.

1. Joe Moody (New Zealand - 46 Tests)

The All Blacks loosehead keeps South Africa's Steven Kitshoff out of the starting XV. Moody is a shrewd technical scrummager.

Sport24's World XV, substitutes added:

15 Beauden Barrett (New Zealand), 14 Cheslin Kolbe (South Africa), 13 Manu Tuilagi (England), 12 Owen Farrell (England), 11 Semi Radradra (Fiji), 10 Richie Mo'unga (New Zealand), 9 Aaron Smith (New Zealand), 8 Duane Vermeulen (South Africa, captain), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit (South Africa), 6 Tom Curry (England) 5 Brodie Retallick (New Zealand), 4 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa), 3 Frans Malherbe (South Africa), 2 Bongi Mbonambi (South Africa), 1 Joe Moody (New Zealand)

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx (South Africa), 17 Steven Kitshoff (South Africa), 18 Tadgh Furlong (Ireland) 19 Maro Itoje (England) 20 Ardie Savea (New Zealand), 21 Josh Adams (Wales), 22 Faf de Klerk (South Africa), 23 Handre Pollard (South Africa)

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Having lost the first Test against the British & Irish Lions, can the Springboks recover to win the series?
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