JOHANNESBURG – Rassie Erasmus’ Springboks will have a physical, hard edge to them, but that doesn’t mean they won’t also play smart attacking rugby.
The new Bok boss’s first assignment is in Washington DC this weekend when his team take on Wales on neutral ground. That match will be followed by three Tests against England in Joburg, Bloemfontein and Cape Town.
Erasmus, who yesterday named lock Pieter-Steph du Toit to captain the side that will take on the Welsh, said the Boks would go back to their traditional strengths under his guidance.
“Everyone who comes into this job wants to find the right balance, but it will be great if we can keep the traditional things about us intact ... that which the opposition fear in us, but also be smarter in our game,” said the Bok boss.
“We all know what I’m talking about ... our physicality is always something we’ve prided ourselves in. We need to maintain that part of our game, but we also need to have something else tactically if it (the physical game) doesn’t come off ... because physicality only at this level won’t win you Test matches.”
Erasmus said he’d been pleased with the new attacking style of rugby the local teams have been playing in Super Rugby.
“It’s been great to see how the franchises, the Bulls and Sharks, have adopted a more attacking mindset this year; it’s just unfortunate that while we’ve been doing that (attacking), we’ve also leaked a lot of tries. That’s where I need to find the right balance.”
Erasmus’ 26-man squad for the Wales Test includes 16 forwards and 10 backs. The 17 players who won’t feature in the US will remain in Joburg to continue with their preparations for the first England Test at Ellis Park next Saturday.
Erasmus made it clear there was no “A” and “B” team and that every one of the men included to face Wales, were also in the running to take on England.
“A lot will depend on what happens in America this weekend. Injuries will have a bearing on the make-up of the squad for the first Test, performance, too ... so there are definitely still spots available for the first England Test.
“I want fresh guys for the first England game, but no one is guaranteed a place in the team. There are reasons why I’ve picked certain men to go to the US now ... some players are older than others, some have travelled more than others recently, over time zones, and some have played more minutes than others.
“If I picked two sides out of the 43 and they played against each other, you wouldn’t be able to say who’d win. That’s how much confidence and belief I have in this squad.
“The guys who are going to take on Wales can stick up their hands ... grab their opportunity and say, ‘I want to be in the team to face England’.”
Erasmus said he’d only trim his squad to 32 players after the first Test against England next weekend.
The only players yet to join up with their teammates are Montpellier-based Frans Steyn and Bismarck du Plessis, who’ll be involved in the Top 14 final this weekend.
The Boks will continue training in Joburg until tomorrow afternoon, when Erasmus is set to name his line-up for the Wales match. That team will fly out to Washington tomorrow night.
Stormers flank Siya Kolisi, meanwhile, has been named the captain of the team for the three England Tests.
Erasmus said he’d review the leadership of the team for the Rugby Championship when it is expected last year’s team leaders, the injured Warren Whiteley and Eben Etzebeth, will be available for selection again.
The Springboks squad for Wales match is:
Curwin Bosch, Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Makazole Mapimpi, Jesse Kriel, Andre Esterhuizen, Elton Jantjies, Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl, Cameron Wright
Nizaam Carr, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Dan du Preez, Oupa Mohoje, Kwagga Smith, Pieter-Steph du Toit (capt), Jason Jenkins, Marvin Orie, Thomas du Toit, Steven Kitshoff, Wilco Louw, Frans Malherbe, Ox Nche, Akker van der Merwe, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Bongi Mbonambi