Here are five reasons why the Springbok bench will play an important role when the Springboks head to the World Cup in Japan, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
Boks are able to mix and match at flank and lock
Pieter-Steph du Toit’s seamless ability to slot in at flank or lock allows the Boks to be quite flexible when it comes to their bench. They have the option of the picking two loose forwards in the subs: Francois Louw – who can play towards the ball and steal – and Kwagga Smith – who can provide some X factor and link play – to make a massive difference in the second half. Louw can also cover all three positions in the loose trio, while Smith can also play at No 8.
The Herschel Jantjies factor …
This kid has been a game changer for Rassie Erasmus over the course of 2019. Last year Faf de Klerk played deep into almost every Test, because he didn’t really have a deputy who Erasmus trusted enough to close out games. But in Jantjies, the coach has found an option who not only has loads of talent and X factor, but also relishes the big occasion. He is already a proven match-winner at Test level, after putting the Aussies to the sword at Ellis Park and helping the Boks to a draw in Wellington.
Two solid front rows can compete with anyone
The Boks have proper depth in this department, which will allow Erasmus to rotate and keep the big guys fresh during the tournament. At loosehead prop, Steven Kitshoff has been played mostly off the bench over the last few years. He is a dynamic player with ball in hand and hits a lot of rucks, while at tighthead Trevor Nyakane has proved that he can start or make an impact off the bench with his work rate and powerful scrumming. The two hookers, Malcolm Marx and Bongi Mbonambi, complement each other well; both have improved their lineout throwing and are good around the park.
Frans Steyn and Elton Jantjies: Different strokes for different gameplans
There’s only one spot available to accommodate either one of these playmakers on the bench. Both bring specific skills to make a big impact in the last quarter for South Africa. Steyn has come off the bench in all of the Springboks’ matches this year. His biggest contribution came against Australia when he carried with gusto, while also putting his big boot into play. Jantjies is a player who can add impetus and speed to the Boks’ play. The impact he made in the second half against All Blacks in Wellington last year is testimony of his ability to ignite a backline.
Jesse Kriel’s versatility is important for player 23
The Vodacom Bulls man is comfortable at outside centre and has also played a lot of his rugby at fullback. On other occasions, he has covered the wing. If you combine that with his wonderful running ability, then you could have the perfect definition of an impact player. A player of his calibre need to step up on the big stage, because the last 20 minutes in a World Cup match offers half chances which need to be snapped up. Expect Rassie to ask Kriel to step up and make them count.