RWC23: three key players missing from South Africa’s World Cup squad

2019 World Cup winners Lukhanyo Am, Handre Pollard Lood de Jager are all missing

Handré Pollard is one the notable absentees from South Africa's World Cup squad. Image: © Craig Watson -
Handré Pollard is one the notable absentees from South Africa's World Cup squad. Image: © Craig Watson -

SOUTH AFRICA head coach Jacques Nienaber named his 33-strong World Cup squad this afternoon [Tuesday] with three key players missing due to injury.

The reigning champions – who face Scotland on the opening weekend of the tournament – will kick-off their campaign without centre Lukhanyo Am (knee injury), fly-half Handre Pollard (calf injury) and second-row Lood de Jager (chest problem). All three were in the team which defeated England 32-12 to win the World Cup in 2019, and have been named among the nine stand-by players for this year’s squad, indicating that they could come into contention if players drop out at a later date.

Captain Siya Kolisi did make the initial cut, despite having not played since April due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

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Pollard has been out of action since last August having injured his calf whilst playing for Leicester in the Premiership semi-final against Sale. Manie Libbok – who has only seven caps – is the only specialist stand-off in the squad, although utility back Damian Willemse is also able to play there.

Am injured his knee during the Springboks win over Argentina last weekend and his place is taken by Harlequins centre Andre Esterhuizen.

De Jager was a late withdrawal last weekend due to illness. Munster lock Jean Kleyn, who played for Ireland at the 2019 World Cup, is  included after recently making his Springboks debut in the Rugby Championship.

Nienaber has named four scrum-halves – Faf de Klerk, Jaden Hendrikse, Cobus Reinach and Grant Williams – for the tournament. There are only two specialist hookers in the squad, although back-rower Deon Fourie, who became the oldest ever Springbok debutant last summer at 35, has covered that position from the bench in the past during the 2022 Rugby Championship. 

South Africa squad

Loose-head prop

  • Steven Kitshoff (Ulster)
  • Ox Nche (Cell C Sharks)


  • Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks)
  • Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears)

Tight-head props

  • Vincent Koch (Cell C Sharks)
  • Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers)
  • Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92) – comfortable playing loose-head as well


  • Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks)
  • Jean Kleyn (Munster)
  • Marvin Orie (Perpignan)
  • RG Snyman (Munster)


  • Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz)
  • Siya Kolisi (capt, Racing 92)
  • Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs)
  • Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls)
  • Duane Vermeulen (SA Rugby
  • Jasper Wiese (Leicester)
  • Deon Fourie (DHL Stormers)
  • Franco Mostert (Honda Heat).


  • Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles )
  • Jaden Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks)
  • Cobus Reinach (Montpelllier)
  • Grant Williams (Cell C Sharks),


  • Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers)

Utility back

  • Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers)


  • Damian de Allende (Panasonic Wild Knights)
  • Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins)
  • Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles)


  • Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls)
  • Cheslin Kolbe (Suntory Sungoliath)
  • Willie le Roux (Vodacom Bulls)
  • Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks)
  • Canan Moodie (Vodacom Bulls)

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About David Barnes 4026 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.


  1. Doesn’t look like a conventional selection to me. For example 8 back rows, five props instead of 6, four scrum halves and one stand off. Oh well they are world champions and should know what they are doing. Maybe they just have a robust plan for flying in cover for injured players when required.

  2. They be missing a few but there are some other serious players not in the squad like the DuPreez brothers so they have massive depth and Andre Esterhuizen is quite a player to come in. Very strange to have 4 scrum halfs and only one regular stand off. I saw their game against Argentina at the weekend and they suffocated the life out of them with an understrength team so they are quite a force but still our best chance of progressing by beating them in Marseilles.

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