CAPE TOWN - Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus says his players are going to have to prove themselves in testing conditions in the last Test against England if they want to be in the World Cup squad.
Earlier this week, Erasmus also spoke about his desire to build depth in key positions, and getting a proper look at his options is the first step. It’s a step Erasmus has taken for their series-concluding match against England, as the Boks coach has made five changes to the team that beat Eddie Jones’ team in Bloemfontein.
Flyhalf Elton Jantjies, centres Andre Esterhuizen and Jesse Kriel and fullback Warrick Gelant will get their first starts in the series, while Handre Pollard and Willie le Roux move to the bench and scrumhalf Embrose Papier will offer back-up to Faf de Klerk. Up front, Chiliboy Ralepelle will also get a run-on chance at hooker, while 37-year-old Schalk Brits will make his first Springbok appearance since the 2015 World Cup.
“I hope it’s not a big disruption,” Erasmus said about the changes. “There’s four changes in the backline, and if you look at 10, 12 and 13 it’s actually the team that started against Wales. So there shouldn’t be a lack of understanding there. It’s definitely a bit of a risk, but we have to see how they handle the pressure.”
On the backline shuffle, Erasmus added that that he’s looking forward to seeing how Gelant goes in what is expected to be a wet evening in Cape Town. The attack-savvy Bulls back has been a consistent performer in Super Rugby this season, and his positional play and both boots have been massive. And while the conditions are a concern for Erasmus, Gelant has shown that he just might be able to “swim” (as Erasmus put it during the press conference), and a fine example of that was his big game against the Sharks at a wet Kings Park earlier this season.
“Warrick is a guy who has consistently knocked on the door, I guess what Willie had on him was just experience if you consider S'bu and Aphiwe both only have two caps. The wingers have now got a little bit more experience, and Jesse brings 31 caps to the mix," Erasmus said. “We all know what Warrick can do with ball in hand, his clearance kicking is excellent, off the left and right foot. If it’s wet, we’ll learn a lot about him, if it’s dry, we’ll have typical Warrick Gelant play. If he doesn’t do well we’ll fix it after the game.”
With the series won and rugby’s biggest spectacle approaching, Erasmus’ decision to get a better look at some of his options is a sensible one. The SARU director of rugby is also looking forward to pacy No 9 Papier’s contributions.
A number or players have put their hands up in this year’s Super Rugby competition, and Papier is no different. The 21-year-old’s promise on attack has highlighted him as one to watch, especially in a position that has been as puzzling as scrumhalf for the Boks in recent years.
“I’m very excited about Embrose, he’s lightning fast...probably one of the fastest guys in the team, and that’s including Aphiwe and Sbu. At his age he has some work-ons in terms of his passing and his box-kicking, but he’s a natural attacker and he tackles really well and he understands the defensive system.”
Springboks team: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 S’bu Nkosi, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Franco Mostert, 4 RG Snyman, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Jean-Luc du Preez, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Embrose Papier 22 Handre Pollard, 23 Willie le Roux
England team: 15 Elliot Daly, 14 Jonny May, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Owen Farrell (captain), 11 Mike Brown, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Tom Curry, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Maro Itoje, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Kyle Sinckler, 2 Jamie George, 1 Joe Marler. Replacements: 16 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Jonny Hill, 20 Mark Wilson, 21 Sam Simmonds, 22 Ben Spencer, 23 Denny Solomona