Springboks / 16 August 2019, 1:30pm / Jacques van der Westhuyzen
JOHANNESBURG – The Rugby Championship has been wrapped up and a largely second-string Springboks team will run out in what is being called the “Farewell Test” against Argentina in Pretoria tomorrow, in the team’s last outing before boarding the plane to Japan for the World Cup.
So, what is national coach Rassie Erasmus hoping to learn from the match at Loftus Versfeld (5pm kick-off)?
Here we look where the Bok mentor will want to put ticks in five boxes.
The Boks built up a good head of steam during the Rugby Championship, winning against Australia and Argentina and drawing away to New Zealand. They played with aggression and hunger and executed their plans well, building confidence and self-belief along the way. It would be fair to say that the South Africans are in a good space after the last three games, but a poor, lacklustre and losing effort this weekend would leave a bitter taste in the mouth.
Erasmus admitted in the week that there could be a few hiccups tomorrow, but he’ll hope for a strong, winning performance from his fringe players to keep the momentum going.
The Springbok captain hasn’t played for more than an hour following his knee injury which kept him sidelined throughout the Rugby Championship. He’s now back in the Bok side to prove to Erasmus he is fit enough to go to the World Cup and lead the side.
He’s a key man in the squad and while he’ll be asked to only concentrate on his game this weekend - with the captaincy in the hands of Schalk Brits - it must be hoped Kolisi comes through the encounter, unscathed and with his body intact.
Erasmus may have put his faith in mainly the back-up men for this Farewell Test, but there are several players in action who will be key in Japan, especially if injuries hit the so-called first choice players, who’re all being rested this week.
Jesse Kriel, Elton Jantjies, possibly Cobus Reinach, maybe Marcel Coetzee, Lood de Jager, RG Snyman, Schalk Brits and bench sitters like Kwagga Smith, Faf de Klerk and Frans Steyn are very close to getting their boarding passes, but Erasmus will want them to stay fit and healthy, and show good form, to ease any nervous tension and allow him to sleep easily in the coming days.
World Cup hopefuls
The Bok boss has been open and honest with his players about who the frontline men are and who the back-ups are. And he’s also admitted that 80 percent of his World Cup squad has already basically been selected.
However, a few places remain open, and that’s because he’s still unsure about whether he’ll take five or six props to Japan, five or six locks, the number of centres, and the number of outside backs.
So there’s still plenty for the hopefuls to play for tomorrow - among them Warrick Gelant, Dillyn Leyds, Andre Esterhuizen, Vincent Koch, Thomas du Toit and Lizo Gqoboka.
More than anything, in a game where little is on the line, Erasmus won’t want to see any of his key men picking up injuries. Already the Boks are nursing Kolisi back to fitness, while Warren Whiteley, Damian Willemse, Aphiwe Dyantyi and one or two more have already missed out because of injuries.
Any one of the key figures - like flyhalf Jantjies, scrumhalf De Klerk, locks Snyman and De Jager, hooker Brits, and utility back Steyn - getting badly injured now would cause a bit of panic in the squad and the Boks don’t need any more disruptions, especially after the resignation of Swys de Bruin as attack consultant this week.