CAPE TOWN – The Springboks' playing pattern in Saturday's third Test against England at Newlands will be determined by the prevailing weather.
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus on Monday said that rain is forecast and that will be a determining factor when plotting England's downfall. Rain is also forecast throughout the week and that should give Erasmus a chance try out his intended wet-weather plan in damp conditions leading up the match.
He also said that wet conditions will favour the touring English who are used to the inclement weather. Another consideration is that the game will be at sea-level after back-to-back Tests at high altitude venues.
“I see the forecast is rain for Saturday. You know Cape Town - even if rain is forecast, sometimes you get there and you get 80 minutes of dry weather,” said Erasmus, who will be familiar with the weather in the Mother City after he spent few years at Newlands with the Stormers.
“It's difficult to predict, but if it's going to be wet and rainy then I think it's going to be typical Test match rugby - there won't be much chance to open up. We would be stupid to try and play a beautiful, running game.”
Western Cape Tomorrow 's Weather overview: 19.6.2018 pic.twitter.com/nWFOvJzfOO
Erasmus has been very open about his desire to continue expanding the squad depth as part of their bigger-picture thinking with the 2019 World Cup in mind, and at a press conference on Monday, he confirmed there would be “four or five” changes.
He has now been granted some handy breathing room when it comes to his selection considerations for this Saturday's Test, after the Boks took an unassailable 2-0 series lead following last weekend's impressive 23-12 victory in Bloemfontein.
Although Erasmus may be keen to mostly keep a new-look backline unchanged, there is a strong possibility that burly centre Andre Esterhuizen could receive an opportunity in place of Damian de Allende.
Erasmus lavished Esterhuizen with praise following the season-opening clash against Wales, and the Sharks star should be expected to feature in this Saturday's match-day 23.
Should Esterhuizen earn a start, the Bok coach may be inclined to retain his Sharks combination with Lukhanyo Am, although Jesse Kriel impressed off the bench last weekend, and could be a strong contender to also earn a start at outside centre.
Warrick Gelant has been named on the bench for the first two Tests, but the third and final Test provides an ideal opportunity to hand him the No 15 jersey in place of overseas-based Willie le Roux.
Up front, Jean-Luc du Preez could be set for a return to the starting lineup, while Erasmus may want to have a look at Pieter-Steph du Toit at No 5, and then afford Franco Mostert a well-deserved rest.
Similarly, Beast Mtawarira must surely be due a break, allowing talented Steven Kitshoff to slot into the front row.
There could well be a double change at prop if Erasmus opts to hand either Wilco Louw or Thomas du Toit a start at No 3. Frans Malherbe started last Saturday's clash, but his conditioning didn't quite look up to scratch for Test level.
The Bok boss also has the option to mix and match on the bench, where recalled Saracens hooker Schalk Brits is set to make an appearance.
“Schalk will come into the reckoning for this game,” Erasmus said on Monday. “It just depends whether that will be in a starting role or from the bench ... Schalk is one of the guys who we want to test.”
The predicted weather may stifle some of Erasmus' plans. He had hinted that he was looking to play a more expansive game to step up the intensity with players who did not enjoy much game time in the past fortnight. He was also keen to consolidate the team's style of play with the World Cup mind.
“We are breathing easier and it is nice to have the series wrapped up but (on Saturday) we would like to make it 3-0,” said Erasmus. “A whitewash - I haven't thought about that but we want to win. I am happy with the win because of where it puts us in our process but this is all about our build-up to the World Cup and every game is important.
“We will try a few things but in doing so we don't want to disrupt the momentum that we've picked up after winning the opening two games.”
The Springbok team for Saturday's Test will be named at 1pm on Thursday.
African News Agency (ANA)