Rassie Erasmus may follow through with his plan to start Schalk Brits at No 8 in the next World Cup clash with Namibia, writes JON CARDINELLI in Nagoya.
Siya Kolisi’s fitness has been a big talking point for the past couple of months. The Springbok captain fought back from a serious knee injury to play in the last two matches before the World Cup. He played 50 minutes against the All Blacks in Yokohama last Saturday before the Bok management brought him off.
Speaking from the team base in Nagoya – where the Boks are staying in the lead-up to their next pool match against Namibia – assistant coach Matt Proudfoot suggested that Kolisi’s battle to regain full match fitness is ongoing.
With that in mind, it would make sense to give Kolisi an extended run in the next game rather than rest the skipper along with a host of other first-choice players.
The Bok coach has been clear about his selection policy for the pool stage of this tournament. At the World Cup squad announcement in late August, Erasmus said that the first-choice players would start in the bigger clashes against the All Blacks and Italy, and that the fringe players would feature more prominently in the games against minnows Namibia and Canada.
The plan to start Brits at No 8 has been on the cards for some time. Erasmus may well view the coming match against Namibia as an opportunity to experiment with a back row that includes Kwagga Smith, Francois Louw and Brits. The latter will lead the side if Kolisi is left out.
Erasmus has experimented a great deal in this department since the start of his tenure in early 2018. Injuries and the unavailability of players based overseas have impacted on selections, and yet the Bok coach hasn’t been afraid to try various combinations – and explore different loose-trio strengths and dynamics – in the buildup to the World Cup.
A loose trio that include Smith, Louw and Brits boasts a different dynamic to that of Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen – the first-choice back row that started against the All Blacks.
Brits is not your typical front-ranker or indeed your typical South African forward. His handling and running abilities have amplified the attacking potency of big teams like Saracens and the Vodacom Bulls in recent years. As a sevens specialist, Smith has the potential to ignite any attack.
The Boks have a lot of work to do after their 23-13 defeat by the All Blacks, though.
Many have blamed referee Jerome Garces for the Boks’ inability to generate quick ball and to complete several important steals at the breakdown. The players, however, understand that they simply weren’t good enough on the day.
While Namibia won’t present as great a threat in this area, the Boks are targeting an improvement in the lead-up to the playoffs.
‘The All Blacks have some good stealers in their loose forwards. Ardie Savea made a few turnovers that turned the game around,’ Smith said of last week’s clash in Yokohama.
‘We can learn from that. Maybe we need to get the support to the breakdown quicker to prevent those turnovers.
‘We also had opportunities to make turnovers at the breakdown, but couldn’t execute,’ the Bok flank continued. ‘We got over the ball quite a few times but got cleaned out.
‘If we had got the turnover or the penalty in those situations we would have been in a position to counter-attack.’
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) September 24, 2019
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