Coach Rassie Erasmus says he went with a 6-2 split on the Boks’ bench for the quarter-final against Japan because of the South African forwards’ versatility.
Erasmus on Thursday announced his team to front the high-flying Japanese in the do-or-die encounter in Tokyo, springing a surprise when he unveiled a bench consisting of six forwards and just two backs.
‘We look at our replacement strategy on a game-by-game basis and for this opponent on this occasion we believe we’ll need fresh legs among the forwards at some point,’ said Erasmus.
‘We’re very fortunate in that we have a squad that has a number of highly versatile players among forwards and backs, who can slot into a number of positions to cover all eventualities.’
Erasmus used a similar ploy in the pool match against Italy and says he wants to build on the momentum from that game.
‘We were satisfied with the performance against Italy and want to build on that. We have been improving and building momentum this season and we will be looking for further improvements this weekend.
‘Japan are a well-coached team and have deservedly climbed to seventh in the world rankings. It’ll be a good challenge but we’re definitely up for it.’
The starting lineup boasts a total of 665 caps – the most in a Springbok team since the 2015 Rugby World Cup – when the squad included three Test centurions in Jean de Villiers, Victor Matfield and Bryan Habana. And Erasmus says he is pleased with the increased strength in depth and experience of current squad.
‘When we set out on this campaign at the start of last season, one of the things we said we wanted to do was broaden and deepen the experience in the squad,’ Erasmus explained.
‘We’re now in a position where everyone in the starting XV has had a proper taste of top-level Test rugby and we’ve got a strong spine of Test experience for these high-pressure matches.
‘You need that experience when it comes to handling the pressure situations we will face on Sunday and I think we’ve achieved that now.’
Photo: Steve Haag Sports via Hollywoodbets