OPINION: Rassie's two-team formula
SELECTION TIME: The truncated version of the Rugby Championship brings its own unique challenges. However, it remains critical in the build-up to the World Cup.
It is central to coaches finalising their squads and strategies.
That is why it did not come as a surprise to hear that Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is planning to make use of two distinct squads – one to face Australia in the opening game at home and the second travelling to New Zealand ahead of time and preparing for the second Test against the All Blacks.
It is similar to last year, when Erasmus sent one team to face Wales in Washington and the main squad prepared back home for the England series.
The Boks get their 2019 campaign underway against the Wallabies in Johannesburg on July 20, followed a week later by the highly-anticipated encounter with the All Blacks in Wellington.
They conclude their official campaign against Argentina in Salta two weeks later (Saturday, August 10).
The Boks and Pumas have a pre-World Cup once-off international in Pretoria a week later, August 17.
Given the travelling schedule, having two squads makes sense – at the very least for the opening fortnight.
Forty-odd players are currently in camp in Pretoria – preparing for the Rugby Championship and the World Cup later in the year.
It is from this squad the two teams will come for the opening fortnight.
Injuries will, no doubt, influence the final selection.
Already a host of players are on the injury list: Ruan Botha (Sharks, foot surgery), Dan du Preez (Sharks, rib fracture), Warren Whiteley (Lions, knee surgery), Damian Willemse (Stormers, knee surgery) and Jan Serfontein (ankle surgery).
There is also concern over the fitness of Bok skipper Siyamthanda Kolisi, who injured his knee in the latter stages of the Super Rugby competition, and lock Eben Etzebeth, who missed the latter stages of the Stormers campaign with a fractured hand.
You can expect the Bok coach, Erasmus, to go to New Zealand with a similar combination to that which recorded a brilliant 36-34 win over the All Blacks in Wellington last year.
It was the combination that featured in the bulk of the 14 Tests in 2018.
That leaves us with the ‘fringe’ players and some reserves to face the Wallabies at Ellis Park.
That is where we start with our selection.
Possible Bok XV versus Wallabies – July 20: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Dillyn Lleyds, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Francois Louw, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Albertus Smith, 5 Rudolf Snyman, 4 Marvin Orie, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Possible Bok XV versus All Blacks – July 27: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Sibusiso Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi/Marco van Staden, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth/Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Additional players – most likely for the bench:
Forwards: Thomas du Toit, Rynhardt Elstadt, Vincent Koch, Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira.
Backs: Andre Esterhuizen, Makazole Mapimpi, Cobus Reinach.
By Jan de Koning
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