Up­date on Rassie’s job

Eras­mus be­lieves a much-im­proved dis­play will be cru­cial against NZ

The Witness - - FRONT PAGE -

SPRING­BOK coach Rassie Eras­mus knows his team have to im­prove markedly if they are to trou­ble the All Blacks in their Rugby Cham­pi­onship en­counter in Welling­ton to­mor­row.

The South Africans head into the match on the back of suc­ces­sive de­feats to Ar­gentina and Aus­tralia and a 3-4 win-loss record in 2018. Since their last win in New Zealand in 2009, the Spring­boks have beaten the All Blacks only twice in 17 Tests, but Eras­mus be­lieves there is hope.

Af­ter nam­ing his team yes­ter­day, Eras­mus em­pha­sised that the Spring­boks will have to re­duce the num­ber of costly er­rors against New Zealand.

“We have to de­liver a much im­proved per­for­mance against the All Blacks,” he said. “Keep­ing our dis­ci­pline and re­tain­ing pos­ses­sion will be key be­cause New Zealand’s abil­ity to counter from turnover ball is well-known. That means we have to be pa­tient, our de­ci­sion-mak­ing must be good and we have to cap­i­talise on the op­por­tu­ni­ties that we create. The tra­di­tional ri­valry be­tween the two coun­tries mean we can ex­pect a huge phys­i­cal bat­tle.”

Eras­mus has made three changes and a po­si­tional switch to the start­ing side for the kick­off at 9.35 am to­mor­row.

Cen­tre Jesse Kriel moves to the wing to re­place the in­jured Maka­zole Mapimpi, who re­turned home to South Africa af­ter the 23-18 loss to the Wal­la­bies last week­end.

The move sees Lukhanyo Am re­turn to the match-day squad in the No 13 berth.

As ex­pected, Eras­mus has brought Han­dré Pol­lard back into the start­ing XV at fly­half for the clash that sees El­ton Jan­tjies drop to the bench. The only change to the pack sees Malcolm Marx ro­tat­ing start­ing places with Bongi Mbonambi in the No 2 jersey and among the re­serves, Ross Cronjé swaps places with Em­brose Papier as the back-up scrumhalf.

Mean­while, Eras­mus will not have his legacy de­ter­mined by what hap­pens against the All Blacks, says SA Rugby pres­i­dent Mark Alexan­der.

Eras­mus said in the build-up to the match that a re­peat of last year’s 57-0 thrash­ing in Al­bany would likely see him fired, but Alexan­der was quick to put a stop to that think­ing.

Speak­ing to Keo.co.za, Alexan­der said that Eras­mus would def­i­nitely be the man to guide the Boks to the World Cup in Ja­pan next year.

“The All Blacks have con­sis­tently been the num­ber one team in the world. Their record at home is un­ri­valled and this year they have put 40 points past the Wal­la­bies and 46 past the Pumas,” he said.

“The Spring­boks have never won at West­pac Sta­dium. It would re­quire a his­tory-mak­ing ef­fort to get the win. I know the be­lief within the squad is such that Satur­day [to­mor­row] could be that glory evening but the mak­ing of Rassie Eras­mus as the Spring­bok coach won’t be in a vic­tory or de­feat on Satur­day.

“Rassie’s legacy as a coach will be bal­anced against what the Spring­boks can pro­duce at the 2019 World Cup and we trust ev­ery­thing in his plan over the next year to get the Spring­boks into a po­si­tion of strength and World Cup tour­na­ment con­tenders.”

To­mor­row’s other Rugby Cham­pi­onship Test sees Aus­tralia host Ar­gentina at Robina Sta­dium on the Gold Coast at 12 noon (SA time). — Sport24.

PHOTO: GALLO IM­AGES

Cen­tre Jesse Kriel moves to the wing for the Spring­boks’ clash with New Zealand in Welling­ton to­mor­row.

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