Rassie Erasmus believes that the back-row combination of Francois Louw, Kwagga Smith and Schalk Brits will allow the Springboks to push the tempo against Namibia, writes JON CARDINELLI in Nagoya.
The Bok coach has made 13 changes ahead of the World Cup pool clash with Namibia in Toyota City. Brits has assumed the captaincy duties for this fixture and has – perhaps even more significantly – been backed to start at No 8.
The 38-year-old has played almost exclusively at hooker over the course of his long career. Eight years ago, the Saracens star was recruited on a short-term deal by the Stormers to fill the gap at No 8.
Erasmus, who was involved with the Cape franchise back then, has always felt that Brits has the speed and skills to make an impact in the back row. The plan to start Brits at No 8 in this particular Bok side has been on the cards for some time.
The Boks trained in front of a few thousand fans in Ichinomiya on Wednesday. Brits could be seen packing down at No 8 as the forwards took part in a particularly intense live scrumming session.
At the team announcement later in Nagoya, Erasmus explained his decision to pick Brits in a back row alongside Louw and Smith. It’s a very different combination to the one that started against the All Blacks in Yokohama last Saturday.
‘We’ve done a lot of homework on Namibia. We feel that we won’t need as many lineout options in this particular game,’ Erasmus said.
‘Francois Louw and Kwagga Smith will be some of our lineout options [which is not usually the case]. If we do struggle in this area we can bring Franco Mostert off the bench.
‘What this back-row combination gives us is a lot of speed around the park. Our analysis shows us that the Namibia team really wants to play and enjoy the game, so I think that we will need some speed over the park.’
Erasmus reiterated that it was always part of the plan to give the fringe players a run in the pool matches against Namibia and Canada.
‘We had a plan when we picked Schalk Brits as captain in that game against Argentina in Pretoria last month,’ the Bok coach said.
‘He’s got a lot of experience. He’s been great in terms of keeping the morale of the fringe players up while we’ve been in Japan. Those players haven’t had a lot of game time.
‘We’re planning to be at this tournament for eight weeks. That’s a long time and we have 31 players at our disposal. You will rotate your hookers but sometimes you will have a third hooker that doesn’t get game time.
‘This game against Namibia will give us an ideal opportunity to manage Siya Kolisi off the bench and to give Pieter-Steph du Toit a rest,’ Erasmus added. ‘Bongi Mbonambi will get the chance to have 70 minutes before Schalk moves to hooker.’
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) September 25, 2019
Photo: Steve Haag Sports via Hollywoodbets