Rassie Erasmus says that overseas-based players Francois Louw, Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux may remain with the Springboks if the team is hit by injuries or poor results, writes JON CARDINELLI in Durban.
There’s been a lot of speculation about whether De Klerk and Le Roux will be available for the duration of the Rugby Championship. Speaking to the media in Durban on Monday, Erasmus confirmed that Louw is another overseas-based player who may return to England before the conclusion of the tournament.
It’s been reported that De Klerk and Le Roux will return to Sale and Wasps respectively after a certain number of Rugby Championship Tests. According to Erasmus, however, this is not set in stone.
The Boks are already without one of their key players. No 8 Duane Vermeulen – one of the standouts for South Africa in the series win against England – will miss the Rugby Championship due to club commitments in Japan.
The Boks can’t really afford to lose another senior player in Louw. The departure of De Klerk and Le Roux would come as a further blow, given the lack of experienced options at scrumhalf and fullback in the squad.
Erasmus, however, didn’t appear too concerned when he was quizzed about the overseas-player situation on Monday.
‘We could enforce Regulation 9 [the World Rugby rule that ensures club players are available for their Test teams during the designated international windows]. We could have all of those guys available for the whole Rugby Championship.
‘We have to think about the World Cup, though, and what we will do if guys like Duane and Faf are injured. We have to look at a few of the other guys in the context of next year.
‘We want to be reasonable,’ the Bok coach added, referring to the needs of the overseas-based players and the relationship that exists between SA Rugby and the respective clubs. ‘We don’t want to be selfish, and we want to grow this team with the World Cup in mind.’
Erasmus reiterated that Louw, De Klerk and Le Roux may remain with the squad if the Boks fare poorly over the next few weeks and if the side is hit by injuries in the scrumhalf and fullback positions.
While there are three other scrumhalves in the squad, Embrose Papier and Ivan van Zyl only made their Test debuts this past June. Damian Willemse is listed as the official alternative at fullback, but is yet to play a Test.
‘We will handle it on a case-by-case basis,’ said Erasmus. ‘There is a chance those players will go back, say after the Australasian tour. A good chance. But if we have a lot of injuries and are under pressure after a few bad results, we may keep them back.’
Erasmus has highlighted winning Tests, transformation and building a squad for the 2019 World Cup as his biggest priorities. On Monday, the Bok coach admitted that he would struggle to tick the latter two boxes if he didn’t tick the first.
‘I’m worried that if I’m not successful with the first thing, the other two are going to fall by the wayside. You could lose a few games and then suddenly it becomes harder to talk about growing a team and trying new things.’
The Boks have won two and lost two under Erasmus. They will be looking to bounce back against Argentina in Durban this Saturday after losing their most recent Test against England in Cape Town.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) August 13, 2018
Photo: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images