Saturday’s clash against the Wallabies could see the Springboks take one final opportunity to tinker with their team selection, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Over the first six Tests of the year, coach Rassie Erasmus has admitted that while he is coming closer to settling on his first-choice combinations, nothing is set in stone just yet.
Behind closed doors, the Bok coach may well concede that he would like to have banked a few more answers than he has at this stage of his tenure, but the unavailability of some players and a shock loss to Argentina has disrupted the best-intended plans.
Part of those plans had been for the Boks to make several changes for Saturday’s encounter in Brisbane in order to test out a different set of players while also aiming to refresh a few battle-weary stars ahead of the headline game against the All Blacks next weekend.
While Erasmus recently said that the loss in Argentina has caused him to rethink making quite so many changes, reports out of Australia indicate that there could still be five or six significant team alterations.
As expected, Pieter-Steph du Toit is in line to start at flank, with Siya Kolisi shifting to openside flank and Francois Louw dropping to the bench. A double change in the midfield could also see Damian de Allende paired with Jesse Kriel for their 10th Test start as a centre combination.
There have also been signs that Elton Jantjies is due another start at flyhalf, while there could be quite a surprise up front if Malcolm Marx and Beast Mtawarira are ‘rested’ through a rotation to the bench.
Cheslin Kolbe is also expected to be among the substitutes to cover fullback and wing, with the former Stormers star set to make his Test debut once the game has opened up in the second half.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that Willie le Roux could miss the Boks’ final couple of Rugby Championship games should he have to return to English club Wasps, and so the No 15 jersey may well be up for grabs for the home Tests against the Wallabies and All Blacks.
What’s clear is that Erasmus is still looking to build his best combinations, while particularly remaining open to selection flexibility in the front row, loose trio, midfield and at flyhalf.
Sooner rather than later, though, the Boks will want to start settling on some continuity, and it’s quite possible that this will be seen following Saturday’s Test.
The World Cup is now just over a year away, and one would expect the Boks to have every intention of heading into next Saturday’s match against the All Blacks in Wellington with what’s believed to be their strongest possible lineup.
That composition will surely be closely retained for the high-profile Tests in Port Elizabeth and Pretoria, while there’s likely to be limited experimentation on the Springboks’ end-of-year tour. By then, Erasmus will want to be sure of the core group that he intends to take to Japan next year.
All in all, it heightens the importance of Saturday’s clash for those who return to the starting lineup, with there also set to be an onus on a star-studded bench to make a meaningful impact in Brisbane.
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