Rassie Erasmus’ new Springbok picture becoming clearer

Faf de Klerk and Jesse Kriel enjoy a lighter moment during Springbok practice at Loftus Versfeld yesterday. Photo: OUPA MOKOENA Independent Newspapers

Faf de Klerk and Jesse Kriel enjoy a lighter moment during Springbok practice at Loftus Versfeld yesterday. Photo: OUPA MOKOENA Independent Newspapers

Published Jun 14, 2024


Slowly but surely, the fog of war is lifting around Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus’ second tenure as his broad strokes become bolder and his technical finesse more apparent, with the picture he is currently working on only becoming clearer and clearer.

Already yesterday, in their first media briefing of the international season in Pretoria, the Bok mentor revealed several players that will not be eligible to face either Wales next weekend, or Ireland in the first Test in early July, mainly due to injury.


“Steven Kitshoff will be out,” he revealed. “Jean Kleyn will be out. Lood de Jager will be out. Jean-Luc du Preez, Jaden (Hendrikse), Henco (van Wyk) – which we had in camp – Canan (Moodie), Damian (Willemse) and Kurt-Lee (Arendse) are all out.”

Add Handré Pollard and Jasper Wiese to that list. The former has not been released by his English club Leicester Tigers, while the latter is serving a six-match suspension.

Cheslin Kolbe remains uncertain for the Ireland match at Loftus on July 6, while Siya Kolisi will join the team after Wales and only then be assessed.

The Welsh Test, therefore, remains an intriguing fixture as it seems that Erasmus already has a good idea of who will make the trip to Twickenham for next Saturday’s clash.

Earlier, the first open training session of the season at Loftus revealed very little, although Malcolm Marx’s knee and Eben Etzebeth’s elbow were noticeably strapped.

Malcolm Marx (second from left) and Eben Etzebeth (centre) both had strapping around their knee and elbow respectively during Springbok practice in Pretoria yesterday. Photo: OUPA MOKOENA Independent Newspapers

Nevertheless, both are expected to play against Wales.

Marx desperately requires time on the field after a serious injury last year ahead of the Ireland series, while Etzebeth is one of the few locks currently within the 35-man squad.

Pieter-Steph du Toit also seems a near certainty, with Erasmus noting the influential flank as a leading contender to captain the side on the day, along with Bongi Mbonambi and Etzebeth.

Quan Horn and Aphelele Fassi were also presented to the media – usually a good indicator regarding the head-space of the Bok set-up.

Lions wing Edwill van der Merwe also received some airtime, with Erasmus saying: “A guy like Edwill, for example, with the way he is training, the way he is putting up his hand, and he is starting to feel comfortable and safe in the environment. He can be himself.”

It seems then that Erasmus will have a healthy mix of old hands and Young Turks when he names his first match-23 next week Tuesday.

While the focus will be to win the Test against Wales, the Boks are cognisant of the fact that they are building towards a season of massive clashes.

“A guy like Ox (Nche) has played a lot, but he is not tired,” Erasmus said, “and it is the same with Vincent (Koch) and Frans (Malherbe).

‘A guy like Ox (Nche, pictured, centre) has played a lot, but he is not tired,’ Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus said. Photo: OUPA MOKOENA Independent Newspapers

“A guy like Gerhard Steenekamp (Bulls loosehead prop) did really well for us last year, and when he becomes available, he will probably be someone who slots in.

“We want to win the Test match. We want to manage some guys getting back from injury, and we also want to get in some youngsters. As the weeks go on, we get clarity. But putting guys in cotton wool, they won’t have that match-fitness and be almost battle-ready for Ireland.”

The Bulls’ URC semi-final against Leinster at Loftus Versfeld tomorrow will bring further clarity, as Erasmus will not exclude introducing their players against Wales should they lose their semi-final to the Irish giants.

“We will announce our team for Wales internally on Sunday," Erasmus explained, ahead of the Boks’ departure to London on Wednesday.

“In certain positions, there will be some young guys next to each other, then some of the Bulls guys (can come in) who understand how we want to play – most have been at the alignment camps.

“But not all who will be involved with the Irish Test will come in for the pure fact that they haven’t trained with us, apart from next week. But where there are a lot of injuries – we already have a few injuries on the outside backs.

“Cheslin is touch and go. Makazole Mapimpi is ready, but we might be thin there. So, a guy like Willie (le Roux) could come in to settle the combinations there, depending on how they (the Bulls) do.”