JOHANNESBURG – Despite going 1-0 up in the three match Test series last weekend, and not having any serious injury concerns, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has admitted he will tinker with his line-up for the second Test against England in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
The only casualty from recent days is prop Trevor Nyakane (rib), but he didn’t even take the field in the 42-39 win at Ellis Park last weekend, meaning Erasmus has a full squad to pick from, and then some.
Veteran hooker Schalk Brits was added to the group when they assembled in Bloemfontein on Sunday and Erasmus said the recently-retired 37-year-old former Saracens star would be considered for the second Test, like everyone else in his squad.
In fact, it is a certainty there will be changes to the Bok team this weekend, Erasmus insisting he has to try a few things and look at other players in the coming weeks and months. On top of that, there are some players, like tighthead prop Wilco Louw, who came in for Nyakane at the last minute last week to start in Joburg, who simply need a break.
“Look, it’s tempting to stick with the same guys (that played last weekend), to give us our best chance of winning on Saturday,” said Erasmus at the Bok hotel yesterday, “but we also have to try a few things. We only have 16 matches left until the World Cup ... and you don’t want to be trying things against New Zealand and Australia and Argentina away.
“We’ll take things one week at a time, but there will be one, or two, or three subtle changes; nothing major. We have to see how certain guys perform.”
The Bok boss said the exciting Thomas du Toit, who featured against Wales in Washington and from off the bench last weekend, would be considered as a replacement for the tired Louw, while there could be further changes in the second row, back row and in midfield.
“It’s definitely tempting (to bring Thomas in). Just look at the number of minutes Wilco has played this season, at the Stormers and the Boks, look at where he has travelled to ... with the Stormers, last week to Washington and back, and then starting last weekend ... he’s played over a thousand minutes this season.
“He is a little punch-drunk right now,” said the Bok coach.
Frans Malherbe is the other tighthead prop in the squad and he and Du Toit could be involved, with Louw sitting out, while it would come as no surprise were Pieter-Steph du Toit to get a look-in this week, as lock replacement for Franco Mostert, or as blindside flank in place of Jean-Luc du Preez.
In midfield there’s also a chance Erasmus will give young Andre Esterhuizen a run instead of Damian de Allende. The powerful Sharks man was one of a few standout players in the Washington Test against Wales and Erasmus spoke last week of the difficulty of having to leave him out of the squad for the first England Test.
There could also be changes on the bench, with Erasmus keen to see as many of his squad members in action over the course of the series.
While there are no major injury concerns, flyhalf Handre Pollard is nursing a shoulder problem, picked up in the latter stages of the first Test.
“Handre is okay, he looks okay ... he (trained yesterday) ... we’ll manage him through the week,” said a somewhat hesitant Erasmus.
The Bok boss will name his matchday squad on Thursday.