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    Super Rugby coaches face Bok balancing act

    2019-02-15 12:56

    Lloyd Burnard - Sport24

    Durban - They are not favourites by any stretch of the imagination, but the Springbok resurgence under coach Rassie Erasmus has many believing that they can at least challenge at this year's Rugby World Cup in Japan. 

    The Boks, historically, have always been strong at the global showpiece regardless of the shape they have been in entering the tournament. 

    There is, however, a huge amount of planning that needs to take place to ensure that when they line up against the All Blacks in Yokohama on September 22, the Boks are ready.

    Erasmus already has a good idea of what his World Cup squad will look like, but a lot can change between now and then. 

    There is, of course, an entire Super Rugby season to get through first. 

    It is one of the more challenging situations South African coaches find themselves in. 

    The streamlined nature of rugby in New Zealand, for example, ensures that the Super Rugby sides go about their business with the All Blacks in mind as the main priority. 

    Every decision that is taken in terms of team selection and philosophy is done with the national team front and centre.  

    Things are slightly different in South Africa, due largely to the fact that SA Rugby's role is limited because it is not the sole, central paymaster in the system. 

    The Super Rugby franchises have their own investors and their own pressures to perform that have very little to do with SA Rugby. 

    Erasmus has said numerous times, for example, that he wants Damian Willemse to play fullback for the Boks. 

    Playing back-up to Willie le Roux is effectively Willemse's ticket to the World Cup, but when he lines up for the Stormers against the Bulls at Loftus on Saturday, he will do so in the No 10 jersey. 

    Boks aside, that is the role Stormers coach Robbie Fleck needs Willemse to play on Saturday. 

    It is just one example, but it illustrates the intricacies in team selection that face Erasmus and the four South African franchise coaches this year.

    Addressing media on Thursday, Fleck confirmed that he was in constant communication with Erasmus. 

    "We've sat down with him and discussed a number of Springboks and potential players that he's looking at for the World Cup," he said.

    "All of the franchises are on his radar. He knows that it is important year for South African rugby but he knows that there are a number of players who have a key role to play for us here.

    "It's an ongoing chat and there will be open lines of communication between myself, him and the player in terms of how we manage them going forward.

    "We have a responsibility to SA Rugby and the World Cup and looking after players, and likewise the players understand that they've got a responsibility to perform first for their franchise and to do well in Super Rugby."

    Fleck added that while there were guidelines in place in terms of who and when to rest, there was room for flexibility. 

    While the risk of injuries to key players will always be a risk that comes with the Boks playing Super Rugby this year, Fleck is instead encouraging those players on the fringes to use the tournament as one final platform to throw their names into the World Cup hat.

    "He (Erasmus) has made that quite clear. There is a core group that he would like to build a team around, but if there is somebody who sticks their hand up in this campaign then they can get selected for the World Cup," Fleck explained.

    "We understand that Rassie has built some depth over the last few months and he has an idea of who he wants to take, but he's made it clear that if there is an outstanding performer who is not yet in a group, then there is a chance to get called up."

    Willemse and the Stormers take on the Bulls at Loftus on Saturday. Kick-off is at 17:15.

    Teams:

    Bulls

    15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Johnny Kotze, 13 Jessie Kriel, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Embrose Papier, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lood de Jager (captain), 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka

    Substitutes: 16 Corniel Els, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Dayan van der Westhuizen, 19 Eli Snyman, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Ivan van Zyl, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Dylan Sage

    Stormers

    15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 JJ Engelbrecht, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 SP Marais, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 JD Schickerling, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Ali Vermaak

    Substitutes: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Neethling Fouche, 19 Chris van Zyl, 20 Kobus van Dyk, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Dan du Plessis

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    Friday, 22 March 2019
    • Blues v Highlanders, Eden Park 08:35
    Saturday, 23 March 2019
    • Hurricanes v Stormers, Westpac Stadium 08:35
    • Waratahs v Crusaders, Sydney Cricket Ground 10:45
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