After suffering a disappointing loss to Los Pumas in Argentina, Rassie Erasmus’s Springbok selection options raise more questions than answers.
Springbok Selection Options
The SOS Erasmus sent out after the Springboks 32-19 loss in Cordoba, has raised more questions than it has answered.
Last Word on Rugby consider Springbok selection options, plus the ramifications; positive, and negative.
Loose Trio Balance
Playing Siya Kolisi, Francois Louw and Warren Whiteley in the some loose forward trio is unlikely to be successful in Test matches against most international teams.
Kolisi is deservedly the Springbok captain. What he offers the team and the nation at this particular point in time is unique. His style of play is very much the linking type of loose forward of old and there is nothing wrong with that. If he is to be played alongside a true open side flank, the team would need to field a big, ball carrying number 8 who also offers a lineout option. Erasmus has thus sent an SOS to Duane Vermeulen.
We cannot disagree with the physical presence and work rate Vermeulen offers. Is he a true lineout option? Mostly….. yes, but the only real solution to this would be to select Kolisi as an open side flank and to rely on Malcom Marx’s scavenging abilities.
That would open up the option to play the likes of a Pieter-Steph du Toit as a blind side flank who can carry the ball to the advantage line. And he is a true lineout option.
There is also an interesting conversation to be had here. How does Erasmus view former captain Warren Whiteley’s role in the team? Is this the end of the line for Whiteley? Although injury induced, Whiteley seems to have lost ground from being the captain to possibly being sidelined completely.
A choice of Ross Cronje
Embed from Getty ImagesTest quality scrumhalf resources are thin at the moment in South Africa, but fans have wonder how exactly, Cronje fits into Erasmus’s thinking. Erasmus has relied on an accurate kicking game from the base of the scrum or ruck, bringing the Springbok wingers into the game as chasers competing for possession in the air. Does Cronje’s strength lie in his kicking game?
Cronje looked very mechanical when he was asked to take the leadership in the kicking game. He is much more at ease as a distributing scrumhalf, so this selection does seem strange.
Schalk Brits selection loyalty
Embed from Getty ImagesGranted, Brits has had a stellar career in English rugby. Fans will recall he ‘retired’ at the end of the last Premiership season. As a new retiree, he was roped into the Springbok squad for the Test series against England. Now, even while not having played a full game since his retirement, he is back in the Springbok squad for the Rugby Championship.
Springbok selection options granted, the starting hooker is always going to be Malcolm Marx. No doubt about that. And there is adequate backup in Bongi Mbonambi. Yet while there is nothing wrong with an experienced player in the wings [to cover any variables] but, a player who will be 38 years old at the next Rugby World Cup?
That would be pushing the loyalty card towards a player a little too far. Heyneke Meyer learned that lesson in 2015, with many of the players in his squad being past their sell by date. Could Rassie Erasmuss be slipping into that comfort zone too soon?
Argument made for Cheslin Kolbe
#TOP14 | L’image de la J1
► Une percée magistrale de @Cheslin_Kolbe11 qui transperce la défense lyonnaise dans l’axe. Derrière, @Huget14 n’a plus qu’à aplatir entre les poteaux ! L’un des essais de cette 1ère journée pour le @StadeToulousain 🏉🔥 pic.twitter.com/G8wAjKNOMX
— TOP 14 Rugby (@top14rugby) August 25, 2018
By all accounts, Kolbe is having a good start to the season with his French club side, Toulouse. Exactly what Erasmus has seen in two games of the new Top14 season is surely debatable at best. Kolbe does offer a running and stepping game, but it is in two of the other disciplines that there are question marks.
Former Springbok coach, Alister Coetzee, paid a heavy price for selecting small outside backs who can be exposed both defensively and in the aerial contests. If Kolbe demonstrates more skill than Aphiwe Dyantyi and Makazole Mapimpi by direct comparison, then Erasmus must be sure of his Springbok selection options – as some will have expected that recent Rugby Championship form gives current members a stronger calling to stay, rather than select ‘outside the group’.
Focus on 2019 Rugby World Cup must show clarity
Erasmus has been steadfast in his sticking to his statement that he is ‘intent on building depth in all positions’ in preparation for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. That has to be his intent, but some of the Springbok selection options he has made does more to muddy the waters instead of providing clarity, as to what exactly Erasmus has up his sleeve.
If the squad selected on Thursday proves to be heavy on reliable, recalled players, then reaction will be varied across the board. Follow Last Word on Rugby for all the reaction, ahead of the third round of this years Championship.
Australia v South Africa – Saturday September 8. Suncorp Stadium
Embed from Getty Images