Rassie Erasmus has admitted that he took a chance selecting Siya Kolisi for the World Cup after the Bok captain did not feature during the Rugby Championship.
Kolisi suffered a knee injury during Super Rugby earlier this year and due to limited game time after his recovery, was a doubt for inclusion on the plane to Japan.
The 28-year-old only played one half of Currie Cup rugby for Western Province and featured for just over 50 minutes in the farewell Test at Loftus against Argentina, before being selected to lead the squad in Japan. The Bok captain then managed 66 minutes against the World Cup hosts in a warm-up game prior to the start of the tournament.
Speaking at the Boks’ media conference upon arrival back home, Erasmus said that player management had been an important focus for the coaching team, who did not want to make similar errors to previous Bok sides by selecting injured players.
‘Our motto was not to make the same mistakes that we did in previous World Cups where I was involved,’ said the World Rugby Coach of the Year.
‘We had experienced teams on paper but not fully fit teams‚ and we decided that when we got into that plane to Japan that all 31 players must be fit and ready to train.
‘And I must tell you that out of the seven to eight weeks of preparations‚ out of about 40 training sessions that we had‚ there were about three players who sat out with niggling injuries. Siya was the only player we had to manage.’
Erasmus added that the Du Preez brothers [Jean-Luc and Daniel], Damian Willemse – who missed out on the initial squad but was later recalled – and Lizo Gqoboka were not considered for selection because they were struggling with niggling injuries at the time the Boks left for Japan.
‘We decided that we would rather take a fully fit team and the only guy we took a chance on was Siya‚ and we had to manage him so that he could play,’ continued Erasmus.
‘It was important to have him there because, firstly, he is a great rugby player and, secondly, he is our captain. I thought his form was not great for the first two games and that’s why he played in three games in a row. We always substituted him in the last ten to fifteen minutes of the first three games until he was fully fit.
‘In the last three games his form was outstanding‚ so much so that we had to replace him in the final stages because he totally emptied his tank. He played really well and his stats showed that.
‘It was massively important to have him fit and I want to say well done to the medical team who got him through that, because it was a real worry for me earlier in the year.’
Photo: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images