Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus plans to field Marco van Staden, Siya Kolisi and Francois Louw in the same back row at some point in the Rugby Championship. JON CARDINELLI reports from Stellenbosch.
Kolisi was lauded after leading the Boks to a 2-1 series victory over England in June. On Monday, following the announcement of the 35-man squad for the Rugby Championship, Erasmus spoke of his decision to retain Kolisi as the team captain as a ‘no-brainer’.
Kolisi looks set for a new role in the Rugby Championship, though. Erasmus said that the uncapped Van Staden and the veteran Francois Louw – two loose forwards who specialise in playing towards the ball – may start at No 6 and No 8 respectively and that Kolisi may shift to blindside flank.
‘It’s a no-brainer to keep Siya on as captain,’ Erasmus said. ‘Now that all the hoo-ha of him getting the captaincy has died down, and now that it’s a more comfortable thing for him, we may see Siya taking his game to another level.
‘I’ve always thought he was a stronger counter-rucker [than a fetcher]. With his lineout ability, he’s an excellent option at blindside flank. It will be nice to build a back row around a player like Siya.’
No 8 Duane Vermeulen, one of the star performers at the breakdown in the series against England, won’t be available for the Rugby Championship due to club commitments in Japan. With that in mind, it shouldn’t be a surprise to see a veteran ball-stealer like Louw back in the mix.
Van Staden was on the Bok radar in the buildup to the June Test series. He was denied an opportunity to make his debut after sustaining an injury while on duty for the Bulls in Super Rugby.
‘Marco would have started the Tests against England if not for that injury,’ revealed Erasmus. ‘I coached Flo quite a bit [when Erasmus and Louw were both at the Stormers] and I know what he can offer in that role. He did really well at No 8 against the All Blacks at Newlands last year.
‘We may play both of those guys in the same starting lineup for a specific game in the Rugby Championship.’
Erasmus said that Cyle Brink, the other uncapped loose forward in the squad, will be assessed when he joins the group in Stellenbosch on Wednesday.
The Lions players have been given a few days to recover after featuring in the recent Super Rugby final in Christchurch. While Brink started in that game – and scored a great individual try – there is some concern regarding an existing shoulder injury.
‘Cyle has been on the radar for some time. He’s like Duane in the sense that he’s an “in-between” player. He can offer you a lot as a blindside and can also play a role on the ground.’
Etzebeth’s last competitive game was the Test against Wales last December. The Bok lock has been sidelined with a shoulder injury for the better part of eight months.
‘Eben has been training with us for the past week or so. He’s one of the fittest guys in the squad. He will still need to see a specialist. We just need to tick that medical box.
‘If that happens, I won’t hesitate to consider him. His lack of game time [since December] doesn’t bother me.’
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images