Springboks barometer: Siya Kolisi the openside warrior, but Marco van Staden can play a bigger role

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi in action for Racing 92 in the EPCR Champions Cup

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi in action for Racing 92 in the EPCR Champions Cup. Photo: Ashley Western/Colorsport/DPPI via AFP

Published Feb 10, 2024


The Springboks are four months away from the start of an action-packed schedule of matches for 2024, with a friendly against Wales at Twickenham in June the precursor to the big one – a two-match series against Ireland in July.

Independent Newspapers has been running a series in which we look at the players at the disposal of coach Rassie Erasmus. Today, we examine the No 6 position...

The incumbent: Siya Kolisi

The contenders: Marco van Staden, Deon Fourie, Kwagga Smith, Emmanuel Tshituka

As long as Siyamthanda Kolisi is fit and willing, the No 6 jersey belongs to him. The current Springboks are fortunate to have a great son of South Africa leading them, and the positive news for the country is he is happy to continue for some time to come.

He has been in fine form for Racing 92 this year, and is showing no signs of slowing down. He will be 33 in June, and 36 when the next World Cup comes around in 2027.

Will he be leading the Boks at the Australia tournament? Don’t write him off. Last year we saw a minor miracle when he shrugged off a knee injury to lead the Boks to back-to-back World Cup titles.

The normal recovery time from the type of injury he had is six to nine months – Kolisi recovered in four.

Kolisi has been capped 83 times for the Boks, and has led them on 53 occasions. South Africa won’t let him stop until he has at least nailed his ton.

As back-up for Kolisi, Erasmus (and Jacques Nienaber) have been using, variously, Smith, Van Staden and Fourie.

Japan-based Smith is recovering from surgery and is unlikely to be available for the Ireland tour.

Stormers stalwart Fourie reminds me of the lyrics to that famous song of the American South, “Ol’ Man River, he just keeps rollin’ along... ”.

Fourie made his debut for the Boks in the 2022 loss to Wales in Bloemfontein.

He was 35, and nearly two years later, he has 13 caps to his name and continues to play awesome rugby for the Stormers after his wonderful showing in the World Cup final against the All Blacks.

Erasmus will continue to make use of the tough veteran for as long as his legs hold out, and they look stronger than ever.

Van Staden is a relative youngster at age 28. He tends to be underrated, and I am not sure why.

The first match he started for the Boks after a series of appearances off the bench was the 42-12 defeat of Eddie Jones’ Wallabies at Loftus Versfeld last year.

Van Staden was magnificent in that game, not that he ever has a poor display in the green-and-gold or for the Bulls.

He is powerfully built, with a low centre of gravity, and is difficult to stop – while his nickname, “Eskom”, says it all about his defence.

Van Staden has started just three times in his 18 appearances for the Boks, but that is understandable, given Kolisi is the incumbent No 6 – but he will surely play a bigger role for South Africa going forward.

Emmanuel Tshituka is a youngster Erasmus must groom for the future. The lively 23-year-old is consistently excellent for the Lions.

He is soon to join his big brother, Vincent, at the Sharks, where the idea is to play the two flanks in tandem.

It is not inconceivable that the pair could one day graduate together to the international stage.

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