Rassie Erasmus has hinted that there could be a couple of personnel changes for the Springboks’ clash against England at the Free State Stadium on Saturday. CRAIG LEWIS reports from Bloemfontein.
Besides taking a 1-0 series lead after last Saturday’s memorable victory over England, the Boks have also reported a clean bill of health at the start of the week, with Handré Pollard overcoming a minor shoulder complaint.
Pollard was able to take part in Monday afternoon’s training in fine conditions at Shimla Park in Bloemfontein, although Willie le Roux had to watch the session from the sidelines. The fullback did leave the field prematurely at Ellis Park, but it’s been said that he was merely battling with cramp.
One wouldn’t expect Erasmus to tinker too much with a new-look backline this week as he looks for combinations to gel, but there do appear to be considerations that could lead to alterations in the pack.
Pieter-Steph du Toit played off the bench last Saturday after the long journey back from Washington, where he led the Boks in the season-opening clash against Wales, but he now may well be viewed as a starting option.
Although Du Toit is an option at No 5, Erasmus might want to see what he can offer at blindside flank, where he has featured regularly for the Stormers in Super Rugby this season.
Chatting to the media on Monday, the Bok coach expressed his desire to explore certain options while there was the opportunity to do so.
‘It’s very tempting to just stick with the same guys that started in last Saturday’s win, but we also want to try a few things. After this game, there are only 16 Tests until the World Cup, and when you get to the Rugby Championship there isn’t going to be much room to try new things, so we have to consider that. I don’t think there’ll be major changes, but there may be a couple of subtle changes where we want to try and see how the guys perform.’
Tighthead prop Wilco Louw is another player who has carried a heavy workload this year. Besides featuring prominently for the Stormers throughout Super Rugby, he also started against Wales, before having to be pressed into frontline action against England after Trevor Nyakane suffered a rib injury.
‘If you look at the number of minutes a guy like Wilco Louw has played, I think he has clocked up over 1,000 minutes for the Stormers this season. He flew to Washington and started for us against Wales, and then flew back and started against England,’ Erasmus explained in reference to player management considerations.
Should Louw be in line for a rest, Frans Malherbe and Thomas du Toit are the two other tighthead options, although the latter does fulfil a valuable role as a swing prop who is capable of featuring on either side of the front row.
Erasmus has been particularly forthright about the desire to continue making brave calls where possible, while he admitted that last weekend’s win did make that an easier prospect.
‘There is some breathing space for us to keep trying things. When you lose you can tend to become a bit narrow-minded and make conservative decisions, but that’s not what we want to do. We’ve now enabled a lot of new guys to experience Test rugby and what it’s all about. That helps with building confidence, and now we can really just focus on the rugby and coaching.’
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