CAPE TOWN – While the Springboks may be lacking some experience in key areas for Saturday’s clash against England, coach Rassie Erasmus is positive that his team can deal with the challenge.
English and French-based players such as Willie le Roux, Faf de Klerk, Francois Louw and Cheslin Kolbe are not available for the Twickenham showdown as the match is not inside the official international window.
But it does mean that finally we will get to see one of the other scrumhalves in action at the weekend, with De Klerk having played almost every minute of every Test in 2018.
So, one of Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl and Louis Schreuder will don the No 9 jersey.
“We played against England in June with an outside centre (Lukhanyo Am) and two wingers (Aphiwe Dyantyi and Sbu Nkosi) who had zero Test matches,” Erasmus said at a press conference in London.
“A guy like Faf is also not that experienced – I don’t think he’s got 20 caps. We are thin, and it’s just one of those cycles we are going through currently where we don’t have a lot of experienced nines.
“But Ivan and Embrose have been in our system from the beginning, so it’s not a matter of them having to learn everything from scratch.
“But when they run out there, the pressure will be there, and the conditions are different compared to South Africa. It’s an English team that are desperate, so they will be tested at nine.”
England, despite being able to call on their strongest available team, will be missing up to 15 players through injury, including heavy-hitters such as Vunipola brothers Mako and Billy.
Coach Eddie Jones also made a surprise call by leaving out flyhalf Danny Cipriani, who spearheaded their lone victory in June at Newlands.
Erasmus, though, believes England will still pose a formidable challenge.
“They can vary their game. In the first two Tests, they played how we expected them to play, and in the third in the wet conditions, they dished up some rugby that surprised us a little bit,” the Bok boss said.
“And maybe we were a little bit naïve. I know there’s a lot of talk that we are a physical team who bring it in the forwards, but they are really physical. They do really well in the set-phases, mauling, scrumming, they were physical in defence.
“Cipriani is not in the mix – he definitely in the last game brought something new to their game, but then (Owen) Farrell and (George) Ford next to one another are so experienced, and they can vary the game.”