VIDEO: Rassie explains his two-team strategy
SPRINGBOK SPOTLIGHT: The first two rounds of the Rugby Championship will be crucial as South Africa build towards the World Cup.
Bok coach Rassie Erasmus, addressing the media in Pretoria this week, he will “mix up” the teams in the first two games – a juggling act, looking at the bigger picture.
“It will be a challenge playing Australia on the Saturday [July 20] and then flying out on the Sunday, only arriving in New Zealand on the Tuesday morning,” he said of the Round Two outing against the All Blacks on Saturday, July 27.
Erasmus said he would not necessarily select an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ side for the opening rounds.
“There are some guys who need game time, who hasn’t played for six, seven or eight weeks,” the Boks coach told the media gathering.
“Eben Etzebeth hasn’t played for a while. A number of the overseas-based players haven’t played for a while.
“We can’t take the first-choice team straight to New Zealand.
“We are going to juggle the squad, in terms of how we split the two teams against Australia and New Zealand.
“We have to make sure both teams are competitive.”
He also revealed that the starting XV for the key games in the World Cup will play in the warm-up game against Japan – on Friday, September 6, at the Kumagaya Rugby Stadium in Saitama north of Tokyo.
He pointed out they have the three Rugby Championship games and a one-off game against Argentinean to put players on trial.
“Of the 39 guys [currently in the training squad] there are still nine guys that must drop out,” Erasmus said, when quizzed about his World Cup selection.
“We might split up the squad and 15 or 16 guys might go to New Zealand. [However,] we must have 23 guys ready here to play against Australia.
“After the Australia game, six or seven will stay behind [in SA], because we will only tour with 32 to New Zealand and [the Round Three match against] Argentina [in Salta, on August 10].”
The team to face Australia will feature a number of new combinations.
“Herschelle [Jantjies], Frans [Steyn] and Cobus [Reinach] are new in the system,” Erasmus said.
“Marcell [Coetzee] and Rynhardt [Elstadt] are also new.
“There will be some hiccups in terms of getting flow in the game.
“Australia have their backs against the wall, after not having one of the greatest seasons in 2018 – the same as us [last year].
“The end of year tour wasn’t too great for them and they’ve had some coaching changes. I think they are already arriving [in Johannesburg] this weekend, to have two weeks at altitude, to be ready.
“So they will probably want to pick their best team and we will probably go in with a mix of a team.”
Erasmus said the key was to have “patience” in terms of selection, especially if the results don’t go the Springboks’ way.
Erasmus further added that he wants the new players, who were not part of the 2018 Bok during his first season in charge, to express themselves on the field and play to their full potential.
“I want those players to express themselves, have a full go, use their talent and know the game plan.
“But I don’t want them [to feel like they] have this gun against their heads, if they don’t perform.
“I think that’s probably my job, to create that culture in the team.
“The objective is to try and win the Rugby Championship, build confidence to go into the World Cup play.”
Erasmus described the build-up to the Rugby Championship opener as a pre-season – three conditioning weeks and then a Test-match week.
“Last year we only had 280 minutes of training time before the first Test,” he said.
“[This year] we have already had a week-and-a-half of training with almost the entire group.”
He said they are trying to assimilate match intensity a lot.
The danger is that the team that flies to New Zealand might lack game time.
“We might have a really good squad on paper, but against the All Blacks in Wellington, we may not be match fit.
“That is the challenge.
“The make-up of the teams and the player management will be a challenge.
The one positive of [South African teams] not making the play-offs, you can get a bit of conditioning in.”
— Springboks (@Springboks) July 4, 2019