With just 170 days to go to the start of the Rugby World Cup in Japan, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus will already have a good idea of what his 31-man squad will look like.
Of course, part of his mandate is to ensure that a transformation target of 50 percent black representation is achieved as well.
But consideration the quality of black players in Super Rugby at the moment, that shouldn’t be a problem.
Here we take a closer look at some of the black candidates in each position…
Fullback: Warrick Gelant, Aphelele Fassi, Damian Willemse, Dillyn Leyds, Curwin Bosch, Gio Aplon, Cheslin Kolbe
Of this group, Gelant probably has the inside lane to be among the fullbacks in Japan. He showed some good early form, but has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury. He will be pushing Willie le Roux for the No 15 jersey.
Wing: Aphiwe Dyantyi, Sbu Nkosi, Makazole Mapimpi, Dillyn Leyds, Cheslin Kolbe, Rosko Specman, Courtnall Skosan, Sergeal Petersen
No shortage of talent here, with Mapimpi in top nick at the Sharks and Specman making a splash in 15-man rugby after leaving the Blitzboks.
Centre: Lukhanyo Am, Lionel Mapoe, Wandisile Simelane, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Juan de Jongh
Sharks star Am edged out Jesse Kriel in their recent head-to-head clash, and should be the first-choice outside centre in Japan. Mapoe has shown his versatility by operating at No 12 as well, while it will be interesting to see how Dyantyi goes at No 13 this weekend.
Flyhalf: Elton Jantjies, Damian Willemse, Manie Libbok
Jantjies is a shoo-in for the Bok World Cup squad, but needs to push Pollard harder for the No 10 jersey. Willemse hasn’t been given a chance at pivot yet at the Stormers, although Libbok will want to make a late bid for Japan with his Bulls start this week.
Scrumhalf: Embrose Papier, Herschel Jantjies, Grant Williams
Papier finally appears to have edged ahead of Ivan van Zyl at the Bulls, and that will give him greater confidence in a World Cup year. Jantjies has tried hard to bring some spark to a lacklustre Stormers attack, and keep an eye out for Sharks halfback Williams, who possesses a quick service from the base.
Loose Forward: Siya Kolisi, Juarno Augustus, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Hacjivah Dayimani
Augustus is supposed to be one of the bolters in the Bok squad, but hasn’t been given a proper run at the Stormers. Notshe is set to return from injury in a few weeks, and will need to play out of his skin to make the cut in a very competitive position.
Lock: Marvin Orie, Hyron Andrews
Orie has been a rock for the Lions, especially in the lineouts, and having earned a Bok cap already, he is certainly in the mix for Japan.
Prop: Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Lizo Gqoboka, Ali Vermaak, Simphiwe Matanzima, Ox Nche
Apart from the established Boks, Gqoboka’s power in the scrums and tight-loose could see him sneak in as the third loosehead behind Mtawarira and Steven Kitshoff.
Hooker: Bongi Mbonambi, Scarra Ntubeni
While Mbonambi is assured of a World Cup spot, Ntubeni will hope to use Friday’s start against the Reds as a reminder to Rassie Erasmus that he can still produce a big performance.