Rassie's squad: The cat's out the bag
WORLD CUP SPOTLIGHT: Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has revealed that 80 percent of his squad has been finalised.
Erasmus named a much-changed matchday 23 to face Argentina in a warm-up match in Pretoria – with 19 of the victorious Rugby Championship squad not featuring at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The Bok mentor told the media gathering to “read between the lines” when it comes to the World Cup selection.
“Those guys have proven themselves already, to make the World Cup squad,” the coach said.
“We see this week as the ideal time to rest those guys.”
The players not featuring this week and guaranteed World Cup spots are Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handré Pollard, Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Trevor Nyakane, Mbongeni Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Rudolph Snyman, Francois Louw and Herschel Jantjies.
The players who are in the matchday squad this week, but are also certainties for the World Cup include Francois de Klerk, Albertus Smith, Frans Steyn and Jesse Kriel.
Siyamthanda Kolisi, who will captain the team at the World Cup, will also play at Loftus – after making his comeback from a knee injury in a Currie Cup outing for Western Province last week.
That leaves seven spots vacant for the World Cup – with Warrick Gelant, Sibusiso Nkosi, André Esterhuizen, Dillyn Leyds, Elton Jantjies, Cobus Reinach, Marcell Coetzee, Rynhardt Elstadt, Lodewyk de Jager, Rudolph Snyman, Vincent Koch, Schalk Brits (who will captain the team at Loftus), Thomas du Toit, Siyabonga Ntubeni, Lizo Gqoboka, Wilco Louw, Marvin Orie and Marco van Staden get a last chance to impress.
Erasmus confirmed that nine players departed Argentina early – ahead of the 46-13 championship-winning victory over Los Pumas in Salta last week – to be ready for this week’s outing.
“Whatever the result was against Argentina [in Salta last week], we would have played these guys in this [warm-up] match.
“Some guys played against Australia, then some featured against New Zealand and Argentina.
“Now these guys are getting a chance.”
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The coach said the selection plan for the last three weeks and Saturday’s outing has been in place before the SANZAAR tournament kicked off last month.
“We are relatively sure, 80 percent, what the [World Cup] squad will look like.
“The squad know that [and] we have explained that to the players.
“The make-up of the squad – like three scrumhalves, three hookers, etc. – we explained in detail to the squad.
“We explained to them how they will be competing for positions.”
He added they explained to all the players where they stand.
“It is tough, only 31 players will make the [World Cup] squad and we haven’t had a lot of injuries.
“There are a few positions where the guys are battling it out.”
Erasmus confirmed that Siyamthanda Kolisi will be the captain and he will be rotating the team during the tournament.
The two-time world champions (1995,2007) play Japan in a warm-up in Tokyo on September 6, before they open their campaign against three-time world champions and double defending champions New Zealand (1987, 2011, 2015) in Yokohama on September 21.
Erasmus explained that is looking to play a different team in the Springboks’ second round-robin match against Namibia on September 28.
“Against the All Blacks we will play our best possible team and against Namibia we will rotate the guys a little bit,” Erasmus told reporters at the team hotel in Pretoria on Wednesday.
South Africa play Italy in their third round-robin match a week later (October 4), before they round up their group stage campaign with a clash against Canada October 8.
Erasmus added that his decision to hand the captaincy to Brits is based on the fact that Kolisi will not play the full 80 minutes on Saturday and he will be eased back into action with an eye on returning to full fitness in time for the World Cup – while Brits is a senior member of the squad and a suitable captain for the occasion.
“We phasing Siya back into the mix and we desperately want to take him to the World Cup.
“We want to make sure that he is in form when he goes to the World Cup, so I think for him to concentrate on his game and Schalk is obviously the most senior guy,” Erasmus said.