Evan Roos is set to play the biggest match of his fledgling Test career, and Springbok captain Siya Kolisi is backing the explosive No 8 to thrive against England at Twickenham.
“Evan has the world at his feet,” Kolisi said at the captain’s media conference on Friday. “This is the ideal chance to test himself – he couldn’t ask for anything better than a game against England at Twickenham. I’m looking forward to seeing him play on Saturday.”
Nobody is looking forward to it more than Roos who has been patiently waiting for an opportunity to test himself ever since making his 47-minute Test debut against Wales in July.
The 22-year-old played off the bench in last week’s demolition of Italy in Genoa, but Saturday marks his second start, and his first in a strong team against a top five rugby nation.
Three-cap Roos will duel 130kg England No 8 Billy Vunipola, a veteran of 67 Tests, in a pack boasting the quality of Maro Itoje and Tom Curry.
“We will stand firmly behind Evan,” added Kolisi. “The most important thing for him is to know that there is no wrong decision – he can’t make any wrong decisions. Whatever he decides, he must do it fully.
“He needs to know we are standing behind him. We have good systems in the team that protect you, but at the same time you can be yourself.”
Roos’ opportunity comes as a result of Jasper Wiese’s exclusion among a group of players not released by their European clubs for the match which falls outside of the official Test window.
The disruption is compounded by the distraction related to the ongoing saga between Rassie Erasmus and World Rugby, the SA director of rugby currently serving a stadium ban for his tweets highlighting poor officiating.
Kolisi said that operating in less than ideal circumstances is nothing new for South Africans and the Boks are not suffering from a persecution complex.
“That’s where we are happy as South Africans – nothing is perfect. For example, you plan a party, then you get load shedding. That’s who we are.
“We don’t think the world is against us, every team has its challenges. Our motto is still: Let the most important thing remain the most important.
“We get all the challenges and it’s been good for the team. On this tour, we lost our set-pieces and we found new set-pieces.”