IOL Sport rugby writer Wynona Louw.

While the Springboks’ split-squad approach will be significant in terms of player management and testing depth, the respective squads can by no means be seen as “more” or “less” important going into the Rugby Championship.

And at the same time, importance shouldn’t be taken away from any of the Boks’ Rugby Championship Tests.

Bok coach Rassie Erasmus is planning to select his best 15 for their game against New Zealand on July27, with a ‘B’ team taking on the Wallabies at Ellis Park in their Championship opener on Saturday.

Erasmus has hinted that their Rugby Championship campaign will be built around the fixture against the All Blacks, unsurprisingly so, as a win in Wellington – two in a row – would do a lot for their confidence before the World Cup, where the Boks will meet the All Blacks in their first game.

Fifteen players will touch down in New Zealand later this week, and will thus not be available for the game against the Wallabies in Joburg.

But as much as a win over the defending champions would be the ultimate highlight, a loss or poor performance against the Wallabies won’t do much for the players’ confidence either.

The game against the Wallabies is a key one, given that Erasmus can experiment with combinations and new players – new players who could play just as important a role at the World Cup.

It will also offer injury returnees a chance to prove their match fitness and build their case before the Japan showpiece.

The injury to wing Aphiwe Dyantyi should again have showed that the Bok team that will take on the Wallabies is just as important as the one that will try to get another win over the Kiwis.

Injury can strike at any time, and given South Africa’s injury sheet this year, how the fringe players go is just as vital as the performances of the key Springboks.

The Boks yesterday confirmed that Dyantyi had returned to the Lions, where he will undergo rehabilitation for a hamstring injury, and that no replacement would be called up as they had sufficient cover in the training squad.

Looking at the stats, no team has won the Rugby Championship and the World Cup in the same year.

And while Championship results don’t mean much compared with the World Cup, imagine the level of confidence a team would be equipped with if they won both.

Again, the World Cup is the major focus for the Boks and for every other team, but a solid Rugby Championship campaign certainly can’t do their team morale any harm before catching that flight to Japan.

Long gone are the days where play and results came down to the starting 15.

Bench players are a vital piece in performance and results – now more than ever – and the same applies to those outside of the Bok ‘A’ team.

Success in Japan will require a collective effort.

The guy coming in should another player get injured is just as important as the one he’s replacing.

And as important as a win over the Kiwis is getting every player – A or B team – to where they should be before the World Cup.

And that won’t happen by seeing every other fixture as being less important than the one on July 27.

There’s no unimportant game en route to Japan.

@WynonaLouw


Cape Times

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