DURBAN - The much-anticipated first Rugby Championship Test team for Springbok coach, Rassie Erasmus, was announced with a good blend of experience and excitement. The coach has been able to keep some continuity from his series victory against England in June, as well as welcome back some big muscle for the 5pm clash at Kings Park.
The likes of Malcolm Marx, Eben Etzebeth, Francois Louw and Warren Whiteley will all start their first Tests under the new Bok coach after returning from injury. It is a great cavalry for the coach to call upon in terms of skill and experience, as well as leadership, with two Bok captains in that mix.
Erasmus also has given opportunities to a few newly capped Boks to allow them to shine even further, such as Sharks duo Andre Esterhuizen and Lukhanyo Am, who partner each other in the centres, as well as Sharks wing Makazole Mapimpi. On the bench, the coach is hoping to offer two new Bok caps to Stormers flyhalf Damian Willemse, as well as Bulls flank, Marco van Staden.
“Frans Malherbe is now fit again and full recovered from his neck/shoulder injury and he has been training with us for six or seven weeks after Super Rugby and he also played three or four games for the Stormers, so he is fully fit and was the No 1 tight head before he got injured,” Erasmus began.
“Eben is obviously fit now and he was also the first choice No 4, then at No 5 lock, Pieter-Steph du Toit played blind side flank last time, but we have to give Franco Mostert a rest somewhere, he is totally overplayed, and this is the game to do it.
“Louw comes in at openside where Siya Kolisi played so Siya moves back to blindside, where he has always played prior to the last three or four years. Whitley is also now back to full fitness, and has been one of the guys that has captained South Africa before.
Furthermore, two uncapped players, Damian Willemse (utility back) and Marco van Staden (loose forward), were included amongst the replacements and are set to make their Springbok Test debuts off the bench at Jonsson Kings Park. pic.twitter.com/wERrodpWM9
“Aphiwe Dyantyi was the left wing in June, then with Damien de Allende injured for the next two or three weeks, Esterhuizen was knocking hard and I thought he had a real good game against Wales, so he deserves his chance while Lukhanyo stays 13. “Then with Sbu Nkosi out, Mapimpi was competing hard with Lwazi Mvovo for that spot, but we think he is ready for Championship rugby.”
Erasmus also explained what the two exciting debutants can bring to the party with Willemse seen as a fullback reserve, who can cover flyhalf, and Van Staden a similar player to Louw.
“When I was in Ireland,” Erasmus explained. “I had a good look at Damian. Now he has gone through the whole of Super Rugby at 10, and last year he went through the Currie Cup at 15, so I think he is one of those younger guys who can physically stand up to it, there is no doubting that. We all know he can tackle, he’s got a great step, good boot and I think his challenge will be pressure and expectations, if he gets through that, he is a talent, and maybe he can do it for us next year at the World Cup.”
On Van Staden, Erasmus was excited about his breakdown ability: “Marco is good on defence and attack, he is one of the guys who gets there first on attack and secures ball, and we will expect that, and then defensively, we’ve all see he makes turn overs, so hopefully he can do that at Test level. He will play much like Flo, just with more of an engine and a bit younger,” the coach quipped.
Springbok team: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Makazole Mapimpi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Siya Kolisi (captain), 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira; Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Lionel Mapoe, 23 Damian Willemse.