CAPE TOWN – It’s almost that time.
In exactly one week from now, the Springboks will open their World Cup campaign with what is expected to be a blockbuster of a Test against New Zealand in Yokohama.
Both teams will be going into next Saturday’s fixture after whipping the opposition they faced in their last warm-up games and it also served as the final dress rehearsal before the real business kicks off.
By now Bok coach Rassie Erasmus has got a good look into all his squad members, and his first and second choices are clearly marked in his notebook, I’d imagine. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be a change or two somewhere during the tournament, though.
With that said, here are three changes I would make to the Bok team that faced Japan for the World Cup opener against the All Blacks.
Kwagga Smith in for Francois Louw
Louw has certainly been solid, but Smith could add a whole different kind of impact to this game. While Louw can present a masterclass or two on breakdown hustle, the Lions baller’s all-round game can make him an attractive option against a team that will no doubt look to turn up the tempo. Smith’s ability with ball in hand, his linking play, that strong and elusive carrying, his knack for creating and exploiting space and the fact that he can provide that urgency to and at the breakdown, in fox-terrier kind of style, wouldn’t make too bad an addition to the matchday 23 for the Yokohama spectacle.
Besides, while Louw’s breakdown work is always a plus, the Boks have a handful of ball-stealers in the group, so that “extra” that Smith can bring just seems more promising, especially considering the Kiwis’ tempo at and from the breakdown.
Trevor Nyakane in for Frans Malherbe
Let’s forget about how the trio of Tendai Mtawarira, Bongi Mbonambi and Nyakane were unmistakeably destructive against Argentina in Salta. Let’s forget about how Nyakane tormented Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, his direct opponent, in the shoving battle. Forget it all, because basing Nyakane’s season on that showing alone would be an insult. And if there’s one thing he can be frustrated with, it’s the “supersub” tag that he has gained. Sure,
Nyakane’s energy makes him a top impact-injection later in the game and, depending on who you ask and what your views are, it might not even matter who starts and who comes on after the break. For this game, though, I think it does. In those conditions, maximum damage needs to be done at the set-piece and beyond while the energy reserves are still full, and I feel that Nyakane would just be able to do more in that regard.
Malherbe was secure at scrum time last week and worked hard in the Boks’ mauling efforts, also when it came to stopping the Brave Blossoms’ attempts, but more will be needed next week.
Herschel Jantjies in for Faf de Klerk
Yes, yes, Jantjies can be the ultimate impact player for the Boks against the All Blacks. And his ability deal the killer blow with that always-ready attitude, quick reaction and energy is everything any team could ask for when it comes to getting through that last quarter, and until now, it’s worked.
But the Boks cannot afford to play catch-up in their opener, especially not in those conditions, and last week’s friendly should also have shown how the South Africans started feeling the heat, literally, as the game progressed. De Klerk hasn’t exactly trumped any “Herschel should start” talks with his performances of late, and his box kicks have also been problematic at times.
Point is, there can be no predictability or lack of accuracy against the All Blacks, box kicks or passing, and Jantjies has just looked more-crisp in the way he has read the game and when it’s come to his execution.@WynonaLouw