Rugby Championship

Rassie to unleash Bok bolter for Durban?

2018-08-06 21:32
Marco van Staden (Gallo)

Cape Town - With Duane Vermeulen not available for the Rugby Championship, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus will have to field a new-look loose trio for next Saturday's tournament opener against Argentina in Durban. 

On the surface, the fit-again Warren Whiteley seems the most natural replacement at the back of the scrum. But, listening to Erasmus speak in Stellenbosch on Monday, things could be a little more complicated than that. 

Siya Kolisi, confirmed as captain for the Rugby Championship, is the only one guaranteed a start in the loose trio, though it is looking increasingly likely that he will make the move from openside to blindside flank. 

The addition of two new squad members - the uncapped Marco van Staden and Bok veteran Francois Louw - means that Erasmus now has two new options at No 6. 

While a Whiteley/Kolisi/Louw starting loose trio would move Pieter-Steph du Toit back to the second row, it seems the most natural fit. 

Van Staden, however, is the possible bolter. 

It has become abundantly clear how highly Erasmus rates the 22-year-old; so much so that he was the coach's first-choice to wear the No 6 jersey in the June Tests against England. 

As fate would have it, Van Staden went down with a knee injury while on Super Rugby duty for the Bulls against the Brumbies in the final match before the international break. 

Now, he is fit and firing, and Erasmus is keen to get him involved. 

"Marco probably would have started in the England Test matches as the first-choice and then the match before that series, the last one that the Bulls played, his knee went," Erasmus said.

"Since then he’s been playing as an out-and-out opensider like Francois Louw and Heinrich Brussow and those guys. It’s nice to have somebody like that in the fold."

Louw himself will be the favourite to start at openside in Durban, though Erasmus hinted strongly at the 33-year-old's ability to play at No 8 too.

The coach pointed to the role that Louw played in last year's 25-24 loss to the All Blacks at Newlands, adding that it might open the door for him to start alongside Van Staden.

"Having guys being able to contest on the ground like Malcolm (Marx), Flo and Marco … we might play them together at some stage," Erasmus said.

"Flo played a wonderful game at No 8 when we lost to New Zealand at Newlands. He’s pretty versatile, so they might be in the same starting line-up, depending who the opposition is."

On Kolisi's likely move to No 7, Erasmus had no concerns. 

"When Siya started out playing he was this lanky flanker who almost played like Warren (Whiteley). He was bigger than the other boys, but he ran on those outside channels," Erasmus explained.

"He’s taught himself the role of a genuine open-sider. He’s brilliant over the ball and is a great counter-rucker, but probably not of the best poachers or at slowing the opposition ball.

"With his lineout ability, he is probably a good option as a blindside flanker.

"He will always be in the team. It’s nice to have a guy like that and then build other guys around him. He’ll probably play a few games at blindside."

The likeliest loose forward combination for Durban remains Whiteley/Kolisi/Louw, but don't be surprised at all if Erasmus takes the bold step to include another uncapped youngster in Van Staden.

 

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