Ahead of this Sunday’s World Cup semi-final in Yokohama, CRAIG LEWIS and JOHN GOLIATH pick the Bok bench they’d like to see play against Wales.
Lewis (editor) – A big factor that has perhaps been somewhat overlooked over the last few weeks is just how the Springboks’ bench dynamics have been altered by the absence of injured Jesse Kriel.
The Boks went into their World Cup opener with a traditional 5-3 forwards-to-backs split on the bench. In addition to a backup scrumhalf and versatile Frans Steyn, Kriel was viewed as a key member of the backline, with his specialities at outside centre and vast experience seen of high value for the latter stages of crunch matches.
However, when Kriel picked up a tournament-ending injury coming off the bench against the All Blacks, it forced the Bok coaching staff into a bit of a rethink when it comes to their ‘bomb squad’ composition.
In the Boks’ important Pool B clash with Italy, and the quarter-final against Japan last weekend, they opted for a 6-2 bench split, with just Herschel Jantjies and Steyn providing backline cover.
It’s a tactic that has worked well for the bruising Boks, enabling them to bring on an almost entirely new set of forwards in the second half to offer fresh legs and renewed impetus in the physical exchanges.
This will be no less important as they head into a physical confrontation with a capable Welsh side that has absolutely nothing to lose this Sunday. The Boks’ power game has worked wonders at this World Cup, and they should stick to these traditional strengths.
The bench I’d pick: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Franco Mostert, 21 Francois Louw, 22 Herschel Jantjies, 23 Frans Steyn.
Goliath (senior contributor) – The Springbok pack was magnificent in the quarter-final against Japan. The platform was set by the starters, before the ‘bomb squad’ blew the World Cup hosts to smithereens in the second half.
I wouldn’t change much up front. Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff and Vincent Koch are dynamic players, and at this stage of the tournament they offer a lot more as substitutes because of their carrying prowess and ability to hit many rucks when the game speeds up in the second half.
RG Snyman also offers a lot of a good qualities off the bench, with his power, carrying and ability to offload in the tackle. Flank Francois Louw has also contributed greatly every time he has taken the field as a substitute in 2019.
But I would prefer the Boks pick another backline player and go with a 5-3 split for the semi-final against Wales on Sunday. The 6-2 formation worked a charm against Japan, but the Boks need some energy and a creative spark off the bench in the back division.
You never know what might happen in a semi-final. There could be a flurry of penalties early on or an intercept try. Then the Boks could be forced to chase the game in the last quarter and will need a guy who can inject speed and skill into their game.
I would go with Damian Willemse instead of lock Franco Mostert on the bench. Willemse can play anywhere in the backline, and just has that ability to skip past defenders with a beautiful step or put someone away with a lovely flat pass.
To play with four locks (five, if you add Pieter-Steph du Toit to that mix) is unnecessary. The Boks have more than enough firepower in the pack.
The bench I’d pick: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 RG Snyman, 20 Francois Louw, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Damian Willemse.
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) October 22, 2019
Photo: Steve Haag Sports via Hollywoodbets