Rassie Erasmus says that, considering the depth and experience in the All Blacks’ squad, the reigning champs remain the team to beat at the World Cup.
Having named his squad for the global showpiece earlier this week, the Springbok coach admitted to noting down certain aspects of the All Blacks squad announced on Wednesday.
Speaking ahead of the Springboks’ departure to Japan, Erasmus commented on the importance of managing player workloads in what is likely to be a gruelling campaign for the Boks.
‘I looked at their squad and as a coach it’s tough to select a World Cup squad especially if you’ve got players who have niggling injuries. And also if you’ve got players who are over 30 years old.
‘In a World Cup, if you’ve got a lot of players who are over 30, you really have to manage your squad well, especially in short turn-around times.
‘I looked at their average squad age and there are quite a few guys over 30. Then you have a guy like [Brodie] Retallick who is such an important player for them, and I guess he’s going to be fit somewhere in the tournament.’
The inclusion of Retallick in the squad, despite a shoulder injury which has kept him out of action for a month, is evidence of how much the All Black selectors value the 2014 World Rugby player of the year.
Steve Hansen acknowledged the risk in selecting the injured Retallick, but was quick to state that the 28-year-old is ‘worthy of that risk’ and should return by the quarter-final stage.
It can’t be forgotten, of course, that the Boks will meet the All Blacks in their World Cup opener on 21 September.
‘I think they have a really strong squad that they are taking to the World Cup,’ continued Erasmus.
‘If Retallick gets through the games and they get him match fit and those players who are over 30 don’t have those niggling injuries, they’ve got an experienced squad and they’ll be the team to beat at the World Cup.’
The Springboks departed for Japan this morning ahead of their final World Cup warm-up match against the Brave Blossoms on 6 September in Saitama.
Erasmus confirmed that a full-strength side will run out against the Japanese and that the squad would be very similar to the one which will front the All Blacks two weeks later in the opening game of Pool B.
‘I think the two teams that will play against Japan and against the All Blacks – barring injury – will be pretty much the same teams. Apart from if someone in the Japanese game has a bad performance, loses form or gets an injury.
‘The plan is to play our most in form, strongest possible team against Japan to get some rhythm before we play the All Blacks, because there’s a nice two-week break between the games.
‘Obviously nobody can be complacent and just breeze through that game, not play well and still expect to play the next game again.
‘So we’re pretty sure what that team is going to look like, but we’ll only announce that to the squad on Sunday so they can train hard this coming week.’
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