PRETORIA – Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus might have been speaking out of anger when he stated his plans for the Australia and New Zealand leg of the Rugby Championship “had been thrown out of the window” after his team’s shock defeat to Argentina in Mendoza last weekend.
While Erasmus had admittedly looked to use the away leg of the tournament to experiment with a few untested combinations and particular players, the reality of the competition and opposition are unkind to sides that are not prepared and sure of themselves.
And so Erasmus has been forced to go the conservative route ahead of the trip Down Under and the former Bok loose forward has opted for a largely experienced side, but also played an ace from his box of tricks with the inclusion of former Springbok Sevens and Stormers utility back Cheslin Kolbe.
The 24-year-old Kolbe comes in from the wilderness, having left South Africa two years ago to pursue richer pastures with Toulouse in France after being constantly snubbed by the then national selectors and Springbok coaches.
Kolbe’s selection makes sense with the exhilarating form he has shown since arriving in France and has been dubbed one of the best imports into the French Top 14 in recent times and the fact that he can cover both fullback and wing will be a major value add for Erasmus.
However, Kolbe’s biggest attribute is his ability to carve defences into shreds with his fleet-footed running that normally sparks something out of nothing.
“Cheslin has certainly grabbed his opportunities for his French club and he has earned his spot in the Bok squad. He is in good form and we are delighted have him in the group,” said Erasmus in a statement.
Elsewhere in the team Erasmus has thrown out excitement and opted for safety and the closest guarantee to personnel that will likely produce a far better and competitive performance than they did with the inept showing in Mendoza.
And that is where centres Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel come into the fray with the Sharks midfield pairing of Andre Esterhuizen and Lukhanyo Am struggling to replicate their Super Rugby form.
De Allende has recently recovered from injury while Kriel returns to the fold after a cameo appearance for the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup.
Other returnees to the Springboks squad, also after playing some domestic rugby, are scrumhalf Ross Cronjé and loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe, while the unattached hooker Schalk Brits has also been added at the expense of Akker van der Merwe.
Erasmus released scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl, utility backs Lwazi Mvovo and Lionel Mapoe, while lock Marvin Orie will train with the side but will continue to play Currie Cup rugby for the Lions.
“Damian was close to full fitness during our recent training camp, while Ross, Jesse and Notshe got some valuable game time while playing for their provinces in the Currie Cup last weekend.”
“We'd like to ensure these players remain match fit and the Currie Cup is the ideal place for them to ensure they don’t get rusty, which is why we decided it would be in their best interest to return to their provinces so that they can be considered for selection,” Erasmus explained ahead of their trip to Brisbane tonight.@Vata_Ngobeni