Rassie Erasmus says the calming influence of Willie le Roux is crucial for the Boks’ back three despite the criticism the fullback has received recently.
While acknowledging that Le Roux’s form has not been up to standard, Erasmus says the fullback’s selection is important, considering that wings Sbu Nkosi and Makazole Mapimpi are relatively inexperienced at Test level.
With Cheslin Kolbe ruled out of selection for the match against Wales, Nkosi has been drafted into the starting lineup, having only featured against minnows Canada and Namibia at the World Cup.
Kolbe, Nkosi and Mapimpi have all bagged tries at the tournament to date, with the latter currently joint-top try-scorer with Wales’ Josh Adams.
‘We all know that wings are there to score tries. Since we started playing rugby, we all knew that the wings were the guys who are supposed to score tries,’ said Erasmus during Thursday’s team announcement.
‘Currently it’s happening in our team, and it’s great that it’s happening. It’s great that we are getting the ball to the wings, and that they are scoring tries. Sbu [Nkosi] has got a great try-scoring record. Cheslin [Kolbe] has got a good try-scoring record. Aphiwe [Dyantyi] had one too, when he was playing, and Makazole [Mapimpi] has the same.’
Mapimpi’s finishing prowess has had him score 13 tries in 12 Test starts for the Boks while his Sharks teammate Nkosi has dotted down eight times in 10 Tests, since his debut against England in June last year.
While Erasmus will be happy with the current form of his wings, he’ll be hoping for a much-improved performance from the inconsistent Le Roux, who will be earn his 60th Test cap in the do-or-die clash with Warren Gatland’s Wales.
‘While they are not very experienced, they are doing the job,’ said Erasmus of the Bok wings.
‘And that’s why having a calm head with Willie at the back is necessary, even though I know that’s copping a bit of flack lately, which we all understand why.
‘But having a calm head between the two wings – who don’t have 30 or 40 Test caps – in the semi-final is pretty important. Willie’s influence in many aspects of the game – such as defence, the kicking game, helping calm the nerves – will be needed.’
Come Sunday, Le Roux will certainly have a point to prove following his indifferent form throughout the Boks’ World Cup campaign. Mapimpi will be hoping to add to his try haul, while a determined Nkosi will look to deliver a strong performance to put his hand up for selection should the Boks advance to the final.
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