Springboks in a good space ahead of Rugby World Cup, says Rassie
Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus says the policy of trying out different combinations in 2019 has made him confident that all 31 players in the Rugby World Cup squad can “deliver an outstanding performance” in a playoff match.
Erasmus revealed his tournament group on Monday, and while there were no true shock selections, he has included Frans Steyn – who has not started a Test in 2019 – as well as 38-year-old hooker Schalk Brits.
The former loose forward, though, feels that his squad is fully equipped to deal with any eventuality in Japan.
The Boks kick off their campaign against the All Blacks in Yokohama on 21 September (11.45am SA time, 6.45pm Japan time), but the main challenges will come in the quarter-final, semi-final and the final – if they get there.
“I am very happy with the squad we have been able to select,” Erasmus said on Monday after SA Rugby president Mark Alexander named the squad in Randburg.
“We have been developing this squad since the start of last season and in the 31, we have a good balance of established experience and some exciting youth.
The vibe before the Rugby World Cup announcement. pic.twitter.com/qyvr8kTAxD— Springboks (@Springboks) August 26, 2019
“We set out with the goal of growing the depth of the squad, and I am confident that any of this 31 can step into a playoff match at the Rugby World Cup and deliver an outstanding performance.
“We’ve been working towards this moment for the best part of two years, and we’ve been lucky in achieving most of our goals this season.
“We’ve been able to give everyone in the squad some good game time, as well as develop combinations with squad rotation and not lose momentum as we go to the World Cup.”
And while the Rugby Championship triumph has restored much of the goodwill that was lost over the last three years, Erasmus knows that his players still need to do the job in Japan.
One could argue that the All Blacks in particular tried a few different combinations that didn’t quite work out over the last few weeks.
Richie Mo’unga at flyhalf and Beauden Barrett at No 15 wasn’t a total success, while New Zealand coach Steve Hansen has a number of issues to sort out among his loose forwards too.
Another example is Scotland – possible quarter-final opponents for the Boks – who beat France at the weekend after being trounced by the Tricolors a week earlier.
Eddie Jones’ England would also have felt that they made a statement by thrashing Ireland last Saturday, but Japan is all that matters.
“But the results and performances up to now will mean nothing once we are in Japan. It is a case of back to square one; putting in the work on the training field and in the planning sessions to build on what we have achieved,” Erasmus said.
“We have planned and trained to be competitive at the Rugby World Cup, and the work we have done and the performances to date this year have put us into a good space.
“Rugby World Cups are usually decided by small margins – a foot in touch here or a referee’s call there – but we have a very good squad that has grown into a tight unit over the past few months and we have definitely grown stronger together.
“I’m sure I speak for the squad when I say we can’t wait for the games to begin.”
Springbok World Cup Squad
Forwards: Schalk Brits, Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Siya Kolisi (captain), Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira, Franco Mostert, Trevor Nyakane, Kwagga Smith, RG Snyman, Duane Vermeulen.
Backs: Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Faf de Klerk, Warrick Gelant, Elton Jantjies, Herschel Jantjies, Cheslin Kolbe, Jesse Kriel, Makazole Mapimpi, Sbu Nkosi, Willie le Roux, Handre Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Frans Steyn.