JOHANNESBURG – It pretty much all went according to plan for Rassie Erasmus and his Springboks in the first match on the road to the World Cup later this year.
A weakened Bok team scored five tries in their Rugby Championship opener against a powerful Australian outfit to win 35-17, sending out a statement to the rest of the world that there is depth in South African rugby.
However, Erasmus said afterwards that it was a far from perfect performance, but that he got what he wanted from the clash.
“I knew there would be rustiness because we haven’t played for a long time,” said the Boks boss, “and some of the combinations were new.
“It was also a stop-start game, which was frustrating. But there is no doubt that certain individuals stuck up their hands and showed what they can do, and that is one of the things I wanted to see in this game.”
Scrumhalf Herschel Jantjies, with two tries in a dream debut, was one such player to get a tick behind his name, but there were several other good performances, too.
Lood de Jager returned from injury and delivered a strong performance, captain Eben Etzebeth, too, while Pieter-Steph du Toit and Francois Louw were top-class.
At the back, besides the rookie No 9, his namesake Elton Jantjies was calm and measured at flyhalf, and produced one of his best performances in a Bok jersey.
“It was a very pleasing performance,” said Erasmus. “But, it was not close to a world-class performance.
“The way we played would not be good enough for us to reach the World Cup playoffs, so for me, what stood out was the individuals who grabbed their chance and stuck up their hands.”
The Boks will now look ahead to this week’s match against the All Blacks in Wellington with confidence and belief.
The only thing is the team that beat the Wallabies will not be the same team that takes to the field this Saturday.
Erasmus sent 14 ‘first-choice’ players to New Zealand last week to “acclimatise, freshen up and to get used to the conditions”, and they will all start this week.
The rest of the match-day squad will be made up of players who were part of the larger training group who were in Joburg over the weekend for the Wallabies match.
“Some of the guys who played tonight (Saturday) have made me rethink my plans a bit for the All Blacks game. But we had to do what we did, otherwise we wouldn’t have stood a chance against the All Blacks in Wellington,” said Erasmus.
“We’re taking this game very seriously and want to win it – that’s why we’ve done what we have, sending players over last week already.
“The All Blacks also went to Argentina with half a full team, so we know what is waiting for us this weekend.
“There hasn’t been more than two points between us and them in the last three matches, so it’s going to be close again, but it’s a Test we want to win.”
The Bok squad of 36 will stay on in New Zealand after Saturday’s match and prepare there for the 10 August clash with Argentina in Salta.
Erasmus said it made little sense flying back to South Africa, just for them to head to Argentina a few days later.
Regular Bok captain and flank Siya Kolisi was not named in the tour group despite working with the squad for the full three weeks of pre-season training in Pretoria and Joburg recently.
It suggests he is still some way off playing again following his sidelining due to a knee injury picked up in the latter stages of Super Rugby.
Kolisi, if fit, will make his return to action via Western Province and the Currie Cup, and will hope to feature in the non-Rugby Championship pre-World Cup friendlies against Argentina and Japan.
Thanks to the SA High Commissioner in Wellington for hosting the #Springboks on Sunday evening in the NZ capital. 🏉👌🇿🇦— Springboks (@Springboks) July 21, 2019
##StrongerTogether@Official_Bozza @SuperSportTV @LandRoverZA @CastleLagerSA @FNBSA pic.twitter.com/lOS7pwgBWY
Forwards: Schalk Brits, Marcell Coetzee, Lood de Jager, Thomas du Toit, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Rynhardt Elstadt, Eben Etzebeth, Lizo Gqoboka, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira, Franco Mostert, Trevor Nyakane, Marvin Orie, Kwagga Smith, RG Snyman, Duane Vermeulen.
Backs: Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Faf de Klerk, André Esterhuizen, Warrick Gelant, Elton Jantjies, Cheslin Kolbe, Jesse Kriel, Makazole Mapimpi, Sbu Nkosi, Willie le Roux, Handré Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Frans Steyn.@jacq_west