The addition of overseas-based players should ensure that the Boks arrive for the World Cup in Japan fresh and with a game-changing bench, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
Pieter-Steph du Toit has been magnificent for both the Stormers and Springboks over the last couple of years, showing his versatility as a top-class lock and one of the best blindside flanks currently playing the game.
Because of his great importance for franchise and country, Du Toit has probably played a lot more minutes than his body should actually be handling. Couple that with an average of about 15 tackles a game, many carries and even more cleanouts, then it’s no surprise that he has missed the latter part of the Stormers’ Vodacom Super Rugby campaign due to injury.
The same can be said for many other key Springboks who have almost been played into the ground over the last four years, largely as a result of coaches being under pressure to win, and therefore sacrificing the players’ wellbeing for results.
But that looks like it’s about to change ahead of next month’s shortened Rugby Championship, as well as the big one, the 2019 World Cup in Japan in a few months’ time.
The addition of overseas-based players has given Bok boss Rassie Erasmus a lot more options to play with, especially in the loose trio, with the likes of Marcell Coetzee and Rynardt Elstadt coming off top campaigns in the Pro14 and French Top 14, respectively.
Playing an all-rounder like Coetzee in the back row in the Rugby Championship will give Erasmus the chance to rest and manage Du Toit or and captain Siya Kolisi, who also finished the Stormers’ Super Rugby campaign on the sidelines because of injury.
A player such as Frans Steyn will also give the Boks another important option at inside centre, which is probably the one position where the Boks don’t really have the sort of depth that Erasmus is looking for.
Such is the quality of the current Bok squad that gathered in Gauteng this week – the Bulls and Sharks players must also still join – that Erasmus can essentially play different teams and experiment with combinations in the Rugby Championship without necessarily sacrificing results. It’s a fantastic position to be in.
Having a squad that boasts two top players in every position at the World Cup is a massive luxury, especially if your bench is just as strong as the guys who start the Test match.
The All Blacks have had that luxury in the past, replacing a top, experienced international player with another one. It’s why they have been such a top team in the last quarter of their Test matches, because their starters’ fitness is superior and the guys coming off the bench are just as potent.
The Boks will hopefully have that same luxury at the World Cup, with the competition for places in the squad suddenly placing Erasmus in a win-win situation ahead of the international season.
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