Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has gone with his strongest possible team to face France. Photo: BackpagePix

It is not that Damian Willemse and Ivan van Zyl had bad games that they have gone from starting players right out of the match-23 for the Springboks, says coach Rassie Erasmus.

Willemse and Van Zyl would’ve hoped to at least get a spot on the bench for Saturday’s Test against France in Paris after starting at fullback and scrumhalf in the 12-11 loss to England.

Willemse, in particular, did everything asked of him by Erasmus with a composed display at Twickenham.

The Western Province protégé also added some sparkle to his display with one thrilling counter-attack in which he side-stepped past a number of English defenders.

But with England-based Willie le Roux available this week, Erasmus went with the experienced man, and it was the same case with Faf de Klerk coming in for Van Zyl.

Cheslin Kolbe is the outside back on the bench, while Embrose Papier continues in the No 21 jersey.

“Last week, I wouldn’t say they were missed. But the calmness and the decision-making is something that doesn’t just come naturally after your first or second Test match,” Erasmus said at the team announcement in Paris on Thursday.

“So, playing France away in Paris is a big challenge – like England were – and I definitely think that guys like Embrose and Ivan really learnt a lot last week.

“It was the same with Damian (Willemse), but getting Cheslin (Kolbe, who is on the bench) and Faf, and all these experienced guys in for a big Test match, where we must try and grind out a win, is pretty important.

“His (Kolbe’s) knowledge of the French team will help him, but the French players will also know him well. But that is definitely one of the reasons why he was picked ahead of Damian Willemse and Gio Aplon.”

Erasmus added that lock Eben Etzebeth was “just struggling too much” with his foot injury to be ready this week, but he was confident that the big No 4 will be able to face Scotland next Saturday.

The coach was pleased to call on Pieter-Steph du Toit to continue at lock as a result, which means last week’s loose trio of captain Siya Kolisi, Duane Vermeulen and Warren Whiteley remain intact.

Springbok Team

15 Willie le Roux 14 Sbu Nkosi 13 Jesse Kriel 12 Damian de Allende 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi 10 Handré Pollard 9 Faf de Klerk 8 Warren Whiteley 7 Duane Vermeulen 6 Siya Kolisi (captain) 5 Franco Mostert 4 Pieter-Steph du Toit 3 Frans Malherbe 2 Malcolm Marx 1 Steven Kitshoff.

Bench: 16 Bongi Mbonambi 17 Thomas du Toit 18 Vincent Koch 19 RG Snyman 20 Francois Louw 21 Embrose Papier 22 Elton Jantjies 23 Cheslin Kolbe.


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