Cape Town – Shifting
onward to Newlands with the England Test series safely in the bag would be of
enormous benefit to Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus for his “bigger picture”
heart-stopping closeness of the first clash at Emirates Airline Park last
weekend, which the Boks dramatically eked out 42-39, few in the Bok camp are
likely to be guilty of placing the cart too flippantly before the horse for the
middle Test in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
from the incentive (and satisfaction) of simply clinching the series in the
central city - a fitting way to mark Tendai Mtawarira’s 100th
appearance in green and gold - Erasmus would probably be doubly appreciative of
another victory as it would facilitate a dead-rubber date next weekend.
He has made
no bones about his wish to fiddle with combinations and widen his pool of
quality players - geared toward RWC 2019 in Japan - over the next few months.
So if the
series is ziplocked ahead of Newlands, there must be a big chance that Erasmus
will be fuelled less by an obsession to clean sweep England 3-0 than by
recognising a tantalising opportunity to gauge some of his slightly more
would also help give him a better idea of his “A-team” for the even greater
demands of the Rugby Championship from mid-August, where supporters will be
hoping for a markedly better showing than in the 2017 event: the Boks ended
third of the four countries, and a distant 14 points behind unbeaten winners
thing to consider is that the closing Test against England will quite likely be
played in noticeably different conditions to the first two (both at altitude
and on firm, fast pitches).
is expected to be very chilly, the Bloemfontein Test is anticipated to be
played on a dry surface again on Saturday.
Cape Town, by contrast, seems to be having its welcome first more “traditional”
early winter in several years, characterised by consistent rain of late, and
the long-range forecast suggests it could be heavy going at Newlands - something that England would hardly grumble about.
if his charges are a safe 2-0 to the good going into that clash, Erasmus could
feel much more confident of, and justified in, a pronounced bag-shake in
selection … possibly including certain horses-for-courses picks.
example, would the attack maestro who is Willie le Roux really be the best bet
at fullback in a mud-bath? Is there a case for either resting the experienced,
overseas-based customer or shifting him to wing, perhaps, to effectively serve
as a useful assistant to a different, rawer No 15 like Warrick Gelant?
not yet sporting a Bok start in his preferred berth, has played a lot of his
franchise rugby in Highveld conditions for the Bulls, so a wet day at Newlands - and the series already decided - could be a highly useful, acid examination of
the younger man’s ability to adapt.
A slow pitch
in Cape Town could also serve as an educative second opportunity (he made a
bright debut against Wales in Washington DC) for someone like the robust Sharks
unit at inside centre, Andre Esterhuizen, to show his mettle in such
five-star showing in Johannesburg, it will take a serious shocker in
Bloemfontein for Faf de Klerk’s stocks to be downgraded as likely first choice
for a while in the long-time problem berth of scrumhalf.
But he does
now boast a dozen Bok appearances, and sooner or later South Africa need to
feel comfortable that their “second No 9” - whoever it is - has enough
experience if suddenly required to be tossed to the wolves as a starter for a
Ivan van Zyl
made his debut in the difficult fixture against Wales, and a Newlands dead
rubber would be a suitably “relaxed” sort of landscape to peruse his abilities
as a starter once more.
If they are
2-0 up by next weekend, Erasmus and his lieutenants would do well to seize the
opportunity, too, to rotate at loose-head prop, following veteran Mtawarira’s
emotion-charged day this Saturday.
Kitshoff has been an uncomplaining super-sub, in the fullest sense of the
expression, for some time now and would richly warrant a start at his beloved
home ground (by then just a third in the No 1 jersey, from 27 caps), and
probably sacrificing nothing for the SA cause in oomph either at scrum time or
in open play.
slightly more down-the-road visions come into play, of course, Erasmus’s
charges need to emulate what happened in the last home series against England
(under Heyneke Meyer’s tutelage, 2012) by prevailing in the second Test this
Saturday against desperate foes to ensure the swift series shutout …
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