CAPE TOWN – No fetcher, and no Malcolm Marx. So, how does Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus expect his team to win the breakdown battle against the Wallabies?
The Australians boast two of the finest ruck experts in David Pocock and Michael Hooper, while the Boks do not have a specialist loose forward who plays towards the ball for Saturday’s Rugby Championship showdown at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane (12pm SA time kickoff).
Duane Vermeulen was that man against England, but is unavailable for the Rugby Championship due to Japanese club commitments, while hooker Marx was benched on Thursday as Erasmus picked Bongi Mbonambi in the No 2 jersey.
Mbonambi is perhaps a stronger scrummager and thrower into the lineouts, while Marx is effective at close quarters and winning the ball on the ground.
But with another openside flank in Francois Louw being moved to the bench after a disappointing performance against Argentina, captain Siya Kolisi is back at No 6, with regular lock Pieter-Steph du Toit tasked with the blindside flank role.
So, it appears that Erasmus has gone for the “full-blast” approach at the breakdowns, with the likes of Du Toit, Kolisi, Mbonambi and prop Steven Kitshoff expected to blow the Aussies away from the ball with fierce clean-outs.
“They’ve got some of the best loose forwards in the world, and the breakdown is something they’ve always targeted. You know when you play against them, it’s going to be quite tough there,” Du Toit said from Brisbane on Thursday.
“We’ve got to up our game, especially at the breakdown, and secure our own ball.”
Coach Erasmus said that he simply had to include Du Toit in the starting XV.
“Pieter-Steph is just playing so well that you have to find a spot for him in the team. The way the two second-rowers have been playing, Franco and Eben, it’s tough to get one of them out,” he told SuperSport TV on Thursday.
“So I guess Pieter-Steph has been knocking the door down, and hopefully this combination will give us reward that we want.”
Du Toit can perhaps feel hard done by that he is not wearing the No 5 jumper, as he has been in outstanding form this season.
It is also arguably his best position, and he also captained the Boks against Wales in Washington.
But he is just happy to be in the mix again after coming on off the bench in the 32-19 defeat to Argentina in Mendoza.
Another extra attribute of having him at No 7 is his jumping ability at the back of the lineout.
“It’s always nice to be in the starting line-up, and it’s going to be an important role for everyone on the field – especially for the guys who are getting a chance to start,” the Stormers stalwart said.
“We had a tough week after what happened in Mendoza, and we adjusted our schedules to train late in the day and at night, because of the late kickoff.
“So, I think we are well prepared for this week. We’ve made a few changes to the team.
“And that’s part of our game, to get a good start with intensity as well. I think it is going to be quite a challenging match this weekend. The Wallabies come off two losses, and they are going to try to define (themselves) as a not-losing team as well.”
15 Willie le Roux 14 Makazole Mapimpi 13 Jesse Kriel 12 Damian de Allende 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi 10 Elton Jantjies 9 Faf de Klerk 8 Warren Whiteley 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit 6 Siya Kolisi (captain) 5 Franco Mostert 4 Eben Etzebeth 3 Frans Malherbe 2 Bongi Mbonambi 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Bench: 16 Malcolm Marx 17 Tendai Mtawarira 18 Wilco Louw 19 RG Snyman 20 Francois Louw 21 Embrose Papier 22 Handre Pollard 23 Cheslin Kolbe.@ashfakmohamed