Boks face delicate balancing act

Plenty of creative thinking is required if the Springbok coaches are to successfully assemble a squad to take part in the Rugby Championship, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

The waiting game continues to see if the Boks will finally receive the green light to defend their Rugby Championship title in Australia.

Purely from a rugby and preparation point of view, it’s understandable that most onlookers believe the undercooked Springboks would be on a hiding to nothing should they take part.

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Interestingly, at the end of August SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux stated that participation in the Rugby Championship would ultimately be a ‘rugby decision’ and that he’d rely heavily on director of rugby Rassie Erasmus to decide whether the Boks could be sufficiently prepared for competition.

More recently there have been hints that the Springboks have been putting contingency plans in place with one eye on taking part, with Sanzaar last week officially confirming the Rugby Championship would be going ahead.

It’s no secret that there is increasingly a desperate financial need for SA Rugby to finally resume participation in competition, and to start generating much-needed income from a money-spinner like the Rugby Championship.

All in all, it’s no surprise to hear whispers that the Springbok management are thinking creatively when it comes to preliminary planning for competition, with the likelihood of relying heavily on overseas-based players who have already returned to action, while selecting an enlarged squad will be a necessity.

Considering the quarantine restrictions, it won’t be a simple case of calling up a replacement from South Africa if there are injuries, and there have already been signs of how quickly squad options can become depleted.

In recent weeks, Handre Pollard, RG Snyman and Lood de Jager have all picked up worrying injuries since returning to action overseas, while there are several top Japan-based players such as Franco Mostert, Jesse Kriel and Malcolm Marx who will have not played any rugby.

It’s with all this in mind that the Bok coach would face a delicate balancing act when it comes to assembling a new-look squad of players. There may well be a need to back those who have enjoyed an early start to competitions overseas, with the likes of the Du Preez twins, Marcell Coetzee and Rohan Janse van Rensburg having all been impressive recently, for example.

Yet, it is also likely that a less experienced side will be selected for certain matches, with the possibility of enforcing a split-squad system like the Bok coaches did to great effect during the 2019 Rugby Championship buildup to the World Cup.

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It’s far from ideal, and much of all this is all dependent on a local South African competition finally kicking off to allow local players to get some game time under the belt (not to mention the need for international travel to be approved).

There is still hope that a Super Heroes day could take place at the end of September, possibly followed by an internal ‘North vs South’ match and then two rounds of local competition before players would then need to head off to the Rugby Championship.

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The Boks would naturally be playing against the odds, but the one sliver of silver lining would be the opportunity for the Springbok coaches to cast the player net wider and expose several new players to a challenging environment.

It would allow for some experimentation and to truly see what players are made of as the Bok coaches cast an eye towards the 2021 British & Irish Lions series, while also expanding the leadership group.

Ultimately, if the Springboks are to head into Rugby Championship action, it will require some world champion problem-solving if they are to deliver a respectable effort in Australia.

Photo: Steve Haag/Getty/Gallo Images

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Craig Lewis