Rassie Erasmus believes the emotion around Beast Mtawarira’s 100-Test milestone could boost the Springboks in the second Test against England, reports JON CARDINELLI in Bloemfontein.
A lot’s been said and written about Mtawarira reaching the magical 100-Test mark. The prop will become the sixth Bok player to reach the milestone, and the first black African.
The players themselves are aware of the significance of the achievement. What’s more, there is a lot of love and respect for Mtawarira within the current Bok squad. The players want to celebrate the milestone with a win.
‘He’s an amazing man and player,’ Bok tighthead Frans Malherbe said on Thursday. ‘I played alongside him when I made my Test debut in 2013. I consider it an honour to play alongside him in his 100th. I will do anything I can to make it special for him.’
Erasmus acknowledged the importance of the achievement when chatting to the media on Monday. At the team announcement on Thursday, the Bok coach said that it would not distract the player in question or the team from the task at hand.
‘It’s a big week for Beast, and it’s impossible to keep the emotion out of things,’ Erasmus said. ‘I suppose it comes down to controlling that emotion and using it in a positive way, like Siya Kolisi did last week [in his first game as captain].
‘It was a big game for him but he never lost his focus. It will be the same with Beast this Saturday.’
Mtawarira was one of the stars for the Boks at Ellis Park last week. The Bok scrum fired to put a more settled England pack under pressure.
Erasmus has made two changes to the forwards this week, with Malherbe starting at tighthead prop and Pieter-Steph du Toit at blindside flank. Malherbe, who hasn’t played a lot of rugby recently due to a neck injury, can’t wait to get stuck into opposite number Mako Vunipola at the scrum.
‘I actually scrummed against Vunipola when I was in matric in 2009. I was playing for SA Schools and he was playing for the junior England side,’ Malherbe said.
‘It’s great to have this chance again. As a prop, it’s a massive physical challenge. So much depends on a strong platform.’
Erasmus has confirmed that Malherbe won’t play the full 80 minutes this Saturday. Thomas du Toit, who made a big impact off the bench in Johannesburg, will have a similar job to do against England in Bloemfontein.
‘We want to build Thomas du Toit into a world-class tighthead,’ said Erasmus. ‘The Sharks have stuck with him at No 3, even through the tough times, and we’re grateful for that. Now it’s time to give him a chance at Test level and see what he can do.’
The Boks certainly have a lot of options in that position. Wilco Louw has impressed since making his debut last season, while veteran Coenie Oosthuizen is expected to return from injury ahead of the Rugby Championship.
‘There is a lot of competition for that position at the moment and that can only be a good thing,’ said Malherbe. ‘There’s pressure to perform, but it’s a good pressure.’
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) June 14, 2018