Rassie 'spreading the Bok load'
WORLD CUP REACTION: South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus admitted he was taking a calculated risk with his team selection for the “do-or-die” Pool B match against Italy on Friday.
It is not so much the starting XV – which shows three changes from that which played in the 13-23 loss to New Zealand last month – but the forwards-heavy bench.
Erasmus named just two backs – Herschel Jantjies and Frans Steyn – and six forwards for the Shizuoka showdown with Italy.
He expects the forwards to play a critical role in the contest – one of two short turnaround outings.
“We have to win this to get into the quarterfinals,” the coach said of his selections choices.
“The players feel it.
“I’m sitting here feeling butterflies because we’ve lost to Italy recently [18-20 in Florence in 2016]. They will believe they can beat the Springboks and will really be up for this.”
He said they are happy to “grind it out” against the Azzurri if they have to.
“The win is the ultimate [goal].”
However, it is the fact that Italy has had an eight-day turnaround and South Africa had just a six-day turnaround that concerns him more.
“If you take the three games in sequence, there is a six-day turnaround [between the win over Namibia last Saturday and Friday’s showdown with the Azzurri] and a four-day turnaround [between the Italy game and next Tuesday’s encounter with Canada],” the Bok coach said.
“We are spreading the load [of the forwards].
“The most taxing stuff [workload] has been on the forwards.
“If we named just one specialist pack for this game, it would have been more taxing on them.
“By selecting almost two full packs, it will spread the load more. That will help us during the four-day turnaround [next week].
“It might look like we are overloading, but by doing it this way we are spreading the load.”
He admitted having only two backs is a risk, but he has a contingency plan.
“If we do have three backline injuries, then we will have to get creative [with the replacements],” the coach said.
“A guy like Frans [Steyn] does cover No.10, No.12 and No.15. Damian [de Allende] has played No.13 for us before. Cheslin [Kolbe] do cover No.15, Willie [le Roux] has played wing before and Faf [de Klerk] has played flyhalf [in the Premiership].
“We are versatile enough to cover the backline.
“If we do have three backline injuries a loose forward will have to cover [in the backline] somewhere.
“Italy has a very good pack and put a lot of effort in their set phases,” added Erasmus.
“People may think it is a gamble to have only two back replacements, but we want to have plenty of ammunition for what is likely to be a major forward battle.”