PRETORIA – The desperation for victory has finally told and Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has shaken up his team with six changes ahead of their Rugby Championship encounter against Australia in Brisbane tomorrow (12pm kickoff).
Change was seemingly always on the cards for the Boks regardless of the result in Mendoza that saw the South Africans sink to their third defeat under Erasmus and their first of the Rugby Championship in the two Tests against Argentina.
Erasmus is hell-bent on casting his net far and wide to find the last 31 men standing come the World Cup in Japan next year.
But the loss to the Pumas did plant the seed of doubt in the former Bok flank’s head and with the pressure to win, Erasmus went about in selecting his squad for the Australasian leg of the competition and more particularly this game with some trepidation.
And even though Erasmus may be seen as retreating into the shell of conservativeness, his attempt to still breathe some life into his team has the hallmarks of an all-or-nothing move that has surely shaken even the most comfortable of Boks in the team.
Tendai Mtawarira and Malcolm Marx have been knocked off their perch for the more-lively duo of Steven Kitshoff and Bongi Mbonambi to pack down along tighthead prop Frans Malherbe.
That imbalanced loose trio that was not only a yard off the pace but sterile in anything they tried to do in Mendoza has been revamped with the inclusion of Pieter-Steph du Toit at blindside flank, Siya Kolisi moving back to open-side and Warren Whiteley managing to hang on to the No 8 jersey.
As much as Erasmus has made his intentions clear of being confrontational with the Wallabies upfront with Du Toit being the nominated ball carrier, the reality of the matter is that the Boks could be found wanting at the breakdowns without an outright fetcher while the Australians have two of them in David Pocock and Michael Hooper.
Flyhalf remains one of the most contested positions in South African rugby, but Handre Pollard and Elton Jantjies have not taken the bull by the horns and made the position their own.
While Erasmus may lead all and sundry to believe that Pollard was always going to start from the bench in this particular Test, the truth is that Pollard needed to be benched as his ailing form was becoming a hindrance to the team’s ability to win games.
In all fairness Jantjies does deserve a decent crack at establishing himself as a world-class international flyhalf, at least under Erasmus, and there is no better time than now to give him the opportunity. With Andre Esterhuizen and Lukhanyo Am struggling Erasmus has gone for the safe bet in midfield with the experienced Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel.
The teams for Saturday's clash are:
Israel Folau, Dane Haylett-Petty, Reece Hodge, Matt Toomua, Marika Koroibete, Kurtley Beale, Will Genia, Pete Samu, Michael Hooper (captain), Lukhan Tui, Adam Coleman, Rory Arnold, Allan Alaalatoa, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Scott Sio.
Replacements: Folau Faingaa, Tom Robertson, Taniela Tupou, Izack Rodda, Ned Hanigan, Joe Powell, Bernard Foley, Jack Maddocks
Willie le Roux, Makazole Mapimpi, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Warren Whiteley, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: Malcolm Marx, Tendai Mtawarira, Wilco Louw, RG Snyman, Francois Louw, Embrose Papier, Handre Pollard, Cheslin Kolbe