The Springboks’ final World Cup pool game against Canada will provide the first- and second-choice players with different types of opportunities, writes JON CARDINELLI in Kobe.
Predicting the weather in Japan is a futile exercise. When the bulk of the South African media contingent arrived ahead of the Bok-All Blacks clash in Yokohama, there were whispers of a typhoon reducing the contest to a 0-0 draw. There was, however, not a drop of rain.
The Boks have had to deal with the oppressive humidity and heat in Japan over the course of the past five weeks. Every player has made the point that the high humidity makes for a slippery ball and thus a stop-start contest.
On Monday, Bok No 8 Francois Louw spoke about playing under the roof at the Kobe Misaki Stadium. The humidity levels inside the ground on game day are considerable, and a number of recent games at the venue have been affected.
The weather in Kobe on Tuesday morning was overcast yet warm. By 6am, the mercury had already climbed to 24 degrees. At this stage it seems like the Boks may have to cope with the worst-case scenario of playing rugby in a greenhouse.
It’s encouraging to hear that they are prepared for that type of challenge, though. Rassie Erasmus’ selections should also ensure that the team competes for 80 minutes as first- and second-choice players strive to realise different goals.
As was the case in the second pool clash with Namibia, Erasmus has opted to back a host of fringe players in the starting XV. Fullback Damian Willemse, who only arrived in Japan last Friday, has been rushed into the lineup in an attempt to expose him to the extreme conditions ahead of the playoffs.
The centre combination of Frans Steyn and Damian de Allende has been selected with future games in mind. Lukhanyo Am will remain the first-choice No 13 for as long as he is fit. If Am breaks down in the playoffs, Erasmus will have to back the Steyn-De Allende partnership.
Cobus Reinach gets a rare chance to start alongside Elton Jantjies. Both should be looking to impress the coach in Kobe.
Reinach is currently the third scrumhalf in the pecking order. Jantjies delivered a mixed showing against Namibia, and should be targeting a more composed performance against Canada.
It will be interesting to see how Erasmus manages the team in the second half. The bench has been loaded with first-choice players as Erasmus looks set to give the ‘A’ side a final run together – albeit for 20 minutes – ahead of the playoffs.
One would expect Willie le Roux and Handre Pollard to slot in at fullback and flyhalf, respectively, late in the game. Erasmus may want to give the 10-12-13 combination of Pollard, Steyn and De Allende a further opportunity to develop.
Alternatively, we may see Pollard moving to 12 and Jantjies remaining at 10 in the latter stages. It’s a second-half combination that worked well in 2018 but has not yet been used this season.
Erasmus hinted that Warrick Gelant may shift to 13. While it’s a move that could work against a limited Canada side, one can’t see Erasmus using Gelant in that crucial defensive channel in the playoffs.
The Boks should win comfortably and secure their place in the next round. That said, they will have a lot more to play for than a result and Erasmus will be looking for a few final answers related to the game plan and personnel ahead of the playoffs.
Springboks – 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Warrick Gelant, 13 Damian de Allende, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 S’bu Nkosi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Francois Louw, 7 Kwagga Smith, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Eben Etzebeth, 20 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Handre Pollard, 23 Willie le Roux.
Canada – 15 Andrew Coe, 14 Jeff Hassler, 13 Conor Trainor, 12 Ciaran Hearn, 11 DTH van der Merwe, 10 Peter Nelson, 9 Phil Mack, 8 Tyler Ardron (c), 7 Matt Heaton, 6 Lucas Rumball, 5 Kyle Baillie, 4 Evan Olmstead, 3 Jake Ilnicki, 2 Andrew Quattrin, 1 Hubert Buydens.
Subs: 16 Benoit Piffero, 17 Djustice Sears-Duru, 18 Matthew Tierney, 19 Josh Larsen, 20 Mike Sheppard, 21 Jamie Mackenzie, 22 Shane O’Leary, 23 Guiseppe du Toit.
Photo: Steve Haag Sports via Hollywoodbets