Ahead of this Sunday’s World Cup quarter-final in Tokyo, CRAIG LEWIS and JOHN GOLIATH pick the Bok tight five they’d like to see play against Japan.
Lewis (editor) – For the most part, it appears that Rassie Erasmus has settled on his first-choice side to do duty in the knockout phase. Interestingly, though, it’s in the tight five where things aren’t quite so cut and dry.
There is plenty of competition throughout the front row, while Lood de Jager and RG Snyman have made a real case to be included ahead of Franco Mostert and Eben Etzebeth as the lock pairing.
In the buildup to this Sunday’s quarter-final, the Boks have spoken at length about the dangers of Japan’s high-paced game, while highlighting how they look to keep the ball in play for long periods of play.
While this has to be kept in mind when it comes to selecting a tight five that can keep up to speed with the game, the Boks will also know how important it is to play to their strengths and outmuscle Japan up front.
For this reason, I’d pick in-form veteran Beast Mtawarira ahead of Steven Kitshoff, while asking Malcom Marx to go flat out for 50 minutes before bringing on Bongi Mbonambi as part of the ‘bomb squad’. Similarly, the mobility and industriousness of Vincent Koch would tempt me to select him ahead of Frans Malherbe.
RG Snyman is simply irrepressible in general play, and also boasts a massive work engine and fearsome physicality. Enough for me to make the bold move of selecting him to start ahead of Eben Etzebeth, who may well have had another disruptive week responding in court papers to allegations related to Langebaan-gate.
Finally, the form and towering presence of De Jager – who is back to his best – would make him a stellar option at No 5.
The tight five I’d pick: 1 Beast Mtawarira, 2 Malcolm Marx, 3 Vincent Koch, 4 RG Snyman, 5 Lood de Jager.
Goliath (senior contributor) – Japan boast a magnificent attack. It’s a refreshing style of play that have won them a lot of fans over the last month. But for them to execute their ball-in-hand approach they need to try to compete hard up front.
This is going to be a tall order (excuse the pun) especially if the Boks go with their form locks RG Snyman and Lood de Jager, who are very mobile, but also have a top power game.
Snyman is a wonderful athlete and a player who can bust tackles and offload in the tackle. He would be perfect for a match such as this, as he can contribute fight in the tight exchanges and subtlety when the game gets loose, which is what Japan will be hoping for.
De Jager is a powerful carrier and a player with a lot of stopping power on defence. He’s the type of player who can give the Boks a lot of momentum, with or without the ball. If the Boks deny Japan go-forward ball, they will struggle to execute their game plan from behind the advantage line.
Both De Jager and Snyman are also good at contesting the lineout. Japan like to go for the option at the back of the lineout, and these two will have a real crack to try to compete for the ball.
This year Rassie Erasmus has picked front rows as two seperate combos. But I want to mix it up a bit, by starting Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi and Frans Malherbe for the quarter-final clash.
All three are great operators in the scrum, while Kitshoff and Mbonambi are also very good around the park.
The Boks need to target the scrum as a source of penalties, especially on their own ball. If the Boks milk penalties here, they can get field position and employ their powerful maul. This could lead to kickable penalties and scoreboard pressure.
Japan are very good at hooking channel-one ball on their own scrum, so this ploy may not work. But if the Boks can get a good hit when they engage, they can also disrupt the hosts at this set piece.
The tight five I’d pick: 1 Steven Kitshoff, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 3 Frans Malherbe, 4 RG Snyman, 5 Lood de Jager.
*Coach Rassie Erasmus will announce his Springbok lineup at 7:30am (SA time) on Thursday.
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