Rassie Erasmus admits that he may be forced to play a loose forward in the Bok backline if there are more than two injuries against Italy on Friday.
Erasmus has opted to go for a 6-2 split between forwards and backs on the Springbok bench, with locks RG Snyman and Franco Mostert, as well as flank Francois Louw, all substitutes.
That leaves scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies and utility back Frans Steyn, who can cover most positions bar scrumhalf and wing, as the only two backline replacements. Jesse Kriel has not been passed fit after taking a hamstring knock against the All Blacks and will again sit the match out.
With wet weather conditions anticipated in Shizuoka on the weekend, it may be a smart move as Italy boast a powerful pack which could make for a physical contest.
However, should more than two players in the Boks’ backline have to be replaced, Erasmus could find himself with a conundrum.
‘If we do get a third injury in the backline, then we will have to be creative,’ Erasmus said. ‘But we have some plans there.
‘Where we are really fortunate – and that was the plan when we selected the World Cup squad – is that a guy like Frans can cover 10, 12 and 15, which is a luxury. Damian [de Allende] has played 13 a lot and Cheslin [Kolbe] can cover 15 for you. Willie [le Roux] can play wing while Faf [de Klerk] has played flyhalf at a high level.
‘I think if we really have to, in extreme circumstances because of injuries, we have a versatile enough backline to cover that. But yes, if we do get three injuries in the backline, we will have to revert with a loose forward.’
None of the Springbok forwards have any first-class experience in the backline, while former sevens star and flank Kwagga Smith has not been included in the match-day 23. A loss against Italy, who currently lead Pool B with 10 points from two games, could have the Springboks struggling to make it through to the playoffs.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) October 1, 2019
Photo: Steve Haag Sports via Hollywoodbets