Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus says Akker van der Merwe was left out of the squad for the November Tests because he needs Schalk Brits’ experience.
Van der Merwe put in a Man of the Match performance for the Sharks in their Currie Cup final win against Western Province at Newlands, clearly overshadowing opposition hooker Bongi Mbonambi, who was substituted just after half-time.
Province coach John Dobson admitted after the match that Mbonambi was fatigued and could not continue.
However, Erasmus chose to continue with Mbonambi and the 37-year-old Brits as the two hookers behind first-choice Malcolm Marx, defending his decision on the basis that Van der Merwe was rotated with Sharks teammate and captain Chiliboy Ralepelle during the Currie Cup.
‘They rotated at the Sharks and Akker was not always first choice,’ Erasmus said. ‘I also think we must not put too much opinion on the basis of one Currie Cup game.
‘There are young props in the squad that need leadership and Malcolm and Bongi are not older or experienced hookers.’
In this regard, Erasmus said Brits brings some balance to the squad, having spent nine years with Premiership champions Saracens.
‘You need that experience and I also think Schalk is the right choice for a tour in Europe,’ Erasmus added. ‘It does not mean that Akker or any other hookers won’t get a chance of going to the World Cup.’
POLL: Who would you have picked as the third hooker for the Springboks’ end-of-year tour squad?
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) October 30, 2018
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images