JOHANNESBURG – With Rassie Erasmus’ Springbok team having a healthy smattering of both youth and experience, the former Munster coach believes that all of his selections are based on form for Saturday’s first Test against England at Ellis Park (5.05pm kickoff).
That is particularly so in the cases of Sbu Nkosi, Aphiwe Dyantyi and RG Snyman, and he is excited about unleashing the trio against a formidable England side.
“Excitement. Sbu was close to making the team last year, one of the stand-out wingers and this year again, he’s been really physical doing work in attack and defence and has improved in the areas which we thought he was vulnerable in,” Erasmus said at the team announcement press conference on Thursday.
“Aphiwe is an exciting youngster and is playing at home. He has consistently performed at centre and at wing for the Lions.
“And I think it is a wonderful opportunity as well for a guy like RG Snyman, who without a doubt has been one of the standout second rowers in South Africa. I think it is form that has been rewarded for those guys.”
Erasmus said winning is the ultimate goal ahead of the opening Test against England, but it must happen simultaneously with his team’s evolution into becoming a rugby powerhouse again.
With the Boks having sunk to new lows during the two year tenure of former coach Allister Coetzee, Erasmus is hopeful that the new faces in his team will not only bring about a breath of fresh air, but will also get the team back to winning ways.
Apart from Nkosi, Dyantyi and Snyman, the likes of replacement prop Thomas du Toit, loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe and scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl only have one cap to their names after making their debuts in last weekend’s Test against Wales in Washington.
Erasmus warned against making winning the be-all and end-all for his team instead of growing the team to not only compete, but beat the top sides in the world.
“Without a doubt, it (winning) is massively important,” said Erasmus. “We have to make brave calls and not be in crisis management or survival mode. The moment we start going into that, we will make conservative team selections and we’ll go back to the old guys who we trust.
“So, the balance we are trying to do is keep on evolving in terms of trying guys, testing and putting them under pressure, building leadership in the team and hopefully win while doing that.
“Obviously we are under pressure to win, especially after last weekend, you want to bounce back in this game and win. I don’t want to stop trying things, otherwise we will never catch up with other countries.
“So, it is important and the main thing, but we have to try and get the balance right with trying new things and evolving as a team.”
The Springbok team is:
15 Willie le Roux 14 Sbu Nkosi 13 Lukhanyo Am 12 Damian de Allende 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi 10 Handré Pollard 9 Faf de Klerk 8 Duane Vermeulen 7 Jean-Luc du Preez 6 Siya Kolisi (captain) 5 Franco Mostert 4 RG Snyman 3 Trevor Nyakane/Wilco Louw 2 Bongi Mbonambi 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Bench: 16 Akker van der Merwe 17 Steven Kitshoff 18 Thomas du Toit 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe 21 Ivan van Zyl 22 Elton Jantjies 23 Warrick Gelant.