JOHANNESBURG – Rassie Erasmus’ Springboks have been given license to “play it as they see it” when they come up against England in the first of three Tests at Ellis Park on Saturday (5.05pm kickoff). While Erasmus’ team will follow a set plan and back the structures put in place to see them through the 80 minutes, the new Bok coach wants his men to also show off their individual skills that got them selected in the first place.
“Let’s see that step from Aphiwe (Dyantyi), let’s see S’bu’s (Nkosi) power ... it’s not only about getting the tactics right, but allowing the individual X-factor to come through,” stressed Erasmus when he named his lineup for the much-anticipated match against Eddie Jones’ team.
He was, of course, referring to exciting rookie debut wings Dyantyi and Nkosi, who will earn their first Test caps tomorrow. Also new to the starting team will be lock RG Snyman, while there are recalls for overseas-based Willie le Roux, Faf de Klerk and Duane Vermeulen. Handre Pollard will be at flyhalf in a team that also packs a powerful bench. The No 10 stressed he and his teammates would be allowed to express themselves within the structure decided on before kickoff.
“We’ve got a structure and a plan that we’ll follow, but that doesn’t win you Test matches ... all it does is give you confidence and direction,” said Pollard yesterday (Thursday).
“You’ve still got to bring what you can to the party. Test match rugby is a lot more structured; it’s not Super Rugby, but we’re not going to take away the individual brilliance every guy has and can bring to the party. We want to give ourselves room to express ourselves, to play what we see ... but it’s also about executing. Whoever does that best will win the match.”
Erasmus said he was excited about his team selection. “The players were so desperate to get the tactics right (last weekend in Washington DC, in the 22-20 defeat to Wales) that they allowed their individual talent, skill and brilliance to take a back seat. This week I want us to get the balance right," he said.
“I’m excited about the back three. Willie will give some direction to those next to him and bring calmness to the back three. S’bu has been in great form again, like he was last year, while Aphiwe has performed consistently well for the Lions, and he’s at home this weekend. This is a wonderful opportunity for them, and a player like RG (Snyman), who has been one of the standout second-row forwards this season. All three of them have been form players and they’re being rewarded for it.”
Pollard said he was looking forward to playing Test rugby again after a troublesome few seasons with injury. His partnership, for the first time, with De Klerk will be crucial for the Boks.
“I’m in good space and feeling confident, I’m happy I’m injury-free,” said the No 10. “There are a bunch of new guys in the team which is exciting and I’ll be playing with Faf for the first time on Saturday."
The bench is full of game-breakers like Akker van der Merwe, Steven Kitshoff, Thomas du Toit, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Warrick Gelant. Meanwhile, the Boks will finalise their starting team once there is more clarity on the injury suffered by tighthead prop Trevor Nyakane. If he is ruled out of action because of a rib injury, Wilco Louw will take his place in the run-on side.
Springboks: Willie le Roux, S’bu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Duane Vermeulen, Jean-Luc du Preez, Siya Kolisi (capt), Franco Mostert, RG Snyman, Trevor Nyakane/Wilco Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Akker van der Merwe, Steven Kitshoff, Thomas du Toit, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Ivan van Zyl, Elton Jantjies, Warrick Gelant