CAPE TOWN – Over the next few weeks, our Independent Media rugby writers will be debating their Springbok choices from No 15 to No 1 for the upcoming series against the British and Irish Lions. Today they look at fullback.
Mike Greenaway’s choice: Willie le Roux
While I can only rely on the growing media reports of Willie le Roux's play for Toyota Verblitz in Japan as TV coverage is scant, I can see no justification for him being ejected from the fullback position he occupied with distinction in the World Cup final victory over England.
Le Roux struggled in the pool games but when it mattered most he came to the party, and that poise he has on the biggest stages is why he must start for the Boks in the Test series
Domestically, Damian Willemse impresses in patches but I feel he is too erratic to start ahead of Le Roux in what will be an unforgiving environment.
Likewise, Aphelele Fassi is not the finished product.
Ashfak Mohamed’s choice: Willie le Roux
Aphelele Fassi has been pushing hard for a Springbok spot, but hasn't quite reached his best form in the Rainbow Cup SA.
To be honest, neither has any other locally-based fullbacks. Damian Willemse is still finding his feet at No 15 – although he was better at the weekend against the Sharks; David Kriel has had his moments, but has not shown that he is a Springbok yet; and the Lions are missing the injured Gianni Lombard and Tiaan Swanepoel, which has seen EW Viljoen slot in recently.
So, after all of that, Willie le Roux is the incumbent Bok No 15 from the 2019 World Cup, and has reportedly been in good form for Toyota Verblitz in Japan, and retains his spot.
Wynona’s Louw’s choice: Damian Willemse
The Stormers baller has settled in well at fullback, and it's certainly a pleasing sight ahead of the British & Irish Lions Series.
But for injury, Warrick Gelant would of course be a contender and perhaps – given his form before injury hit in December and his prior involvement with the Boks – ahead of Willemse.
The verdict, however, was six to nine months on the sidelines after tearing his ACL in their Currie Cup defeat to the Bulls.
While there is always the possibility of an early return, he'll be in a race against time to be fit for the Lions Series.
A speedy recovery and readiness for the Stormers' warm-up game on July 17 could make it a tough call.
Morgan Bolton’s choice: Willie le Roux
I know Damian Wiillimse is a favourite amongst supporters to be next in line to don the No 15 jersey for the Springboks, but to be honest, I am not totally convinced.
He has been Ok, not great so far this season. I would much rather see Alphelele Fassi of the Sharks in the squad, as backup to Willie le Roux, who you expect will remain the incumbent at fullback for the tour, despite currently plying his trade in the much less physically intense Japanese Top League.
But, if I was really honest, then Tyrone Green – if he avails himself for national selection – would be my Bok bolter to join Le Roux, as he is having a rather solid season for Harlequins at fullback at the moment.