Cape Town - Fans have long bemoaned the copious amount of box-kicking from Faf de Klerk, but the Springboks are likely to employ a much more flexible game plan at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France in September.
With just over 100 days to go, the world champions are getting their ducks in a row with several training camps, with the next one in Durban on Monday.
A 36-man squad will be announced tonight after the United Rugby Championship final between the Stormers and Munster in Cape Town, with most of the Japanese-based contingent – such as De Klerk, Pieter-steph du Toit and Willie le Roux – likely to attend the Durban camp, as well as injured stars such as captain Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth and Jaden Hendrikse.
But it is about getting the fundamentals in place at the moment ahead of the Rugby Championship, which starts on July 8 against the Wallabies in Pretoria.
The Boks were somewhat forced into sticking to their general strategy from the 2018 and 2019 seasons for the 2021 British and Irish Lions series, as the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in them not playing any Tests in 2020.
But they showed in all four November tour encounters against Ireland, France, Italy and England that they want to utilise a more attacking approach, which has resulted in the likes of Stormers flyhalf Manie Libbok and Sharks scrumhalf Grant Williams being mentioned as possible World Cup squad contenders.
Erasmus said during a press conference this week that the Boks hoped to continue in that vein during the six Tests leading up to the World Cup opener against Scotland on September 10.
“I don’t want to give you the generic quote, where (I say) we are trying to perfect the game, and we are trying to play with the personnel we have and their strengths and weaknesses – because it’s not true,” the former loose forward said.
“Probably 2019 suited the mechanical way we were coaching, and maybe because we didn’t have 2020, where we could change things a lot, and the Lions series was the next year…
“I think when you go and look at us at the end of last year, maybe our timing is just perfect in terms of how we want to change and wanting to be more expansive without throwing our soil out of the window.
“That’s how we try to peak at the World Cup, and I guess only the way we’re playing and the results will tell you whether we’re getting it right, but we are certainly trying to work to get to that perfect balance.”
Part of the camp will address the trends in the game in the past few months, especially the tackle technique and avoiding yellow and red cards for shoulders to the head, while being fully equipped to adapt to how referees blow the breakdown – where some officials may allow a free-for-all “mess”, and others are strict on a fetcher putting his hands beyond the ball when attempting a turnover.
“We feel, in terms of how we planned and ended the season last year, we are on a good trajectory. But a lot of things have changed. Small little things, and some things are refereed differently and players have caught on. Different techniques with the breakdowns… ” he said.
“We are fairly nervous as it’s a World Cup year, but we are really well prepared at this stage.”