JOHANNESBURG – The upcoming truncated Rugby Championships will require a delicate balancing act from Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus in pursuit of momentum ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
Erasmus said he would be fielding two different teams for the opening Tests against Australia and New Zealand.
“It will be a challenge playing on the Saturday against Australia then fly out on Sunday only getting in New Zealand on a Tuesday morning,” Erasmus said.
“We will probably mix up the first two games in terms of personnel when I say that it, it wouldn’t necessarily mean an ‘A and B side’.”
Erasmus admitted the opening Test against the Wallabies might not be ‘free-flowing’ as he trials new combinations and eases in players returning from injuries.
“There will be new combinations in that game, Herschel Jantjies is new, Frans Steyn is new to the system, Rynhardt Elstadt and Marcell Coetzee are new in the mix,” Erasmus said yesterday.
“There will be some hiccups in terms of the flow and Australia have their backs against the wall after not having one of the greatest seasons (last year), same as us in a way.
“They will probably pick their best team, and we will probably go in with a mix of a team. We will want to pick up momentum there, and hopefully, it goes well.”
Erasmus had to reintroduce a host of players that have recovered from injuries but will be looking to gain some valuable game time.
The players include locks Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit while the overseas-based players have also not seen much action for more than a month.
“We probably can’t just take a first-choice team straight to New Zealand because we have a lot of guys that haven’t played for a lot of weeks,” Erasmus said.
“We will probably juggle the squad in terms of how we split the two teams playings against Australia and New Zealand to make sure the two teams are pretty competitive.”
Erasmus said captain Siya Kolisi was likely to miss the first two Tests due to a niggling knee injury and expected him to make his return for the final Rugby Championships match against Argentina in Salta.
“We are going a bit more conservative with Siya to make sure he is ready for the World Cup which is the most important tournament of the year.
“He is getting his scan results on Friday then we will take it from there.”
The Bok mentor said in the best-case scenario case, Kolisi will be back for the clash against South Americans.
“We will see what the return-to-play protocol will be,” he said.
“He will probably play one or two Currie Cup games and then get back to Test match rugby hopefully in that last Argentina game if these tests are positive.”@ockertde