For the first time in his tenure at the helm of the Boks, Rassie Erasmus says he is looking forward to the opportunity to select a first-choice side to play Wales.
The Springboks have turned their sights on Six Nations champions Wales after despatching World Cup hosts Japan (26-3) in Saturday’s ultimately comfortable quarter-final victory.
The Boks will be appearing in their fifth semi-final (of their seventh tournament) in pursuit of a place in the final against the winners of Saturday’s semi-final between England and New Zealand.
But first they have to dispose of a Wales team which completed a Six Nations Grand Slam earlier this year and have won five out of five matches in Japan – edging into the last four with a last-gasp, 20-19 win over 14-man France in Oita earlier on Sunday.
Rassie Erasmus, South Africa’s director of rugby, has coached against Welsh provincial teams during his tenure with Munster in the then PRO12.
‘I’ve got good hidings against Scarlets and those guys when I was coaching Munster, some good wins against them as well,’ Erasmus said.
‘There are good memories as Munster coach against some of the Welsh teams and some bad memories as well.’
The Springboks have not beaten Wales since a 23-19 victory over them in the quarter-finals of the last Rugby World Cup at Twickenham in 2015. Since then Wales have recorded four successive victories – three of them in Cardiff and one in Washington DC.
‘They’re definitely a team with a lot of X factor,’ said Erasmus.
‘We’ve played them twice since I have been coach – with a mixed bag of a team in Washington, and the other one was outside the international window, where we couldn’t select our overseas-based players.’
The Springboks lost the match in the USA 23-19 and then 20-11 in Cardiff in November.
‘I’ve never coached a Welsh team where we could select all our first-choice players – this will probably be the first time,’ he said.
‘Whenever I’ve coached against a Welsh team for Munster, it was never an easy game. I don’t know if my knowledge of individual players will help us, but maybe knowing the overall way in which they play will help.
‘They’ve got a great coaching staff and the thing about them is, they have created a squad. If you look at them when they toured Argentina, they took almost a second-string side over there and gave them a whitewash.
‘I think they have created depth in every single position. And, yeah, they’ve got good confidence and a great team spirit. We know how great the rugby culture is in Wales.’
The Springboks will name their team on Thursday, with Wales due to name theirs 24 hours later.
Erasmus will be looking not for better effort, or a changed plan from his charges, but for more consistency throughout the 80 minutes of the match.
‘That’s the biggest work-on for us,” he said. ‘That’s when we will have a real chance. When we get the opportunities, we must utilise them. And don’t give soft moments away.’
Erasmus was referring to a five-minute period in the opening pool match against New Zealand. The All Blacks went from 3-0 down to leading 17-3 between the 22nd and 27th minutes. The Springboks ‘won’ the remainder of the game, 10-6, but the damage had been done and control taken by New Zealand.
Erasmus said there were also soft moments in the Japan game – with try-scoring opportunities spurned – but they have still conceded only three tries in 400 matches of rugby in the tournament.
‘I guess we don’t need to improve in specific departments. But rather play consistently for 80 minutes of rugby if we want to win the World Cup.’
The semi-final is at the Yokohama International Stadium – the venue for the final on 2 November – and kicks off at 6pm local time (11am SA time) on Sunday. The match will be broadcast on SuperSport channel 201 and on SABC radio.
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