My guys are fit, well-conditioned and ready to go, declares Bok coach Rassie
JOHANNESBURG – Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus stopped short yesterday of calling the All Blacks - the Boks’ opening Pool B opponents at the World Cup in Japan next month - an old squad.
The teams meet in Yokohama on 21 September before also facing Namibia, Canada and Italy in their pool.
All Black coach Steve Hansen, like Erasmus, named his squad this week and among others included injured lock Brodie Retallick. The former World Rugby Player of the Year is however nursing an injury and may only play in the knockout rounds of the tournament.
Erasmus said he was somewhat surprised by some of the selections, but added that the All Blacks remained a hugely experienced team and were the team to beat.
“It’s tough to select a World Cup squad ... there are niggles, especially when you’ve got players over the age of 30,” said Erasmus. “And at a World Cup you’ve got to manage those guys and there are short turn-around times.
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I looked at the ages of the All Blacks squad and there are a lot of guys over 30 ... and then there’s Retallick, who’s so important to them, and they’re going to have to manage him.
“It’s the same with Siya (Kolisi) ... I would have been worried if I took him to the World Cup and he wasn’t ready to play. Where would he get match fit? But, it’s an experienced All Black team.”
Nine of the All Black squad are 30 and over. Six more are 28 or 29.
Erasmus said his Bok squad’s biggest strength as they board the plane to Japan today was that all his players were fit and well-conditioned.
“This squad’s strength is 31 guys are fit and training,” said Erasmus. “They’re conditioned well, and all of them can go 80 minutes ... Siya, too, will get there for the first match (against New Zealand).”
Kolisi, who only just made the “cut-off” following a knee injury which ruled him out of the Rugby Championship, admitted yesterday that he was worried at one stage he wouldn’t be fit to be considered for the World Cup.
“I’m feeling good (physically). I was, however, worried at a time ... I was under pressure,” Kolisi said.
“But the good thing is I was always involved with the team, I was part of the training sessions and all the meetings. It’s only when they went on tour (to Australasia) that I wasn’t part of things.
“It was a waiting period for me, to see if the knee would hold up and while I wasn’t at my best against Argentina (in his return game two weeks ago) I’m happy with the form I showed. I still have to get it up there, but there are two more weeks to go ... I will get to where I need to be.”
Kolisi’s fitness will be put to the test properly in the warm-up game against Japan next Friday, a match Erasmus said would be a “tricky” test for his side.
“They’re the hosts, we’ll play in front of a full house, and the conditions will be tough; the ball will be slippery and it’ll be hot and humid. Japan are also a team who don’t like much structure, where we do, so I’m a bit nervous about it, to be honest,” said Erasmus.
“But it’s an important game, to see Siya go, to get the guys with a few niggles playing, and we’re going to want to test a few game-specific things, too.
We’ve still got some boxes to tick and that game will allow us to do that.”
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