Mobility before power for Boks
But coach Erasmus’s SA team won’t be lacking for grunt against the French
ONE thing the Springboks won’t be short of tomorrow is workhorses.
The Boks may be giving up a few kilos and lacking some brawn because of Eben Etzebeth’s absence – he has a foot injury – but with Franco Mostert back in the team, the visitors will have a super mobile and extremely hardworking lock pairing and back row.
And their engines will keep going and going until coach Rassie Erasmus deems they can do no more.
With Mostert coming in to partner Pieter-Steph du Toit in the second row, the Boks will have two locks against France in Paris who are renowned for their work-rate and tackling ability.
And let’s not forget, both men have regularly played at blindside flank, so there’s plenty of mobility there, too.
And then, with Erasmus sticking with the same loose trio that ran out a week ago, and rightly so, the Boks have got more men who seem to never run out of gas.
Warren Whiteley has been one of Super Rugby’s biggest tacklers in recent years, topping the hits list on several occasions, while captain Siya Kolisi’s tackle rate and work effort this year have gone through the roof.
They’re also players who get through plenty of work as ball carriers, and will be ably supported by Duane Vermeulen, who’ll take on a greater ballcarrying role now that Etzebeth is missing. He’s no slouch when it comes to tackling, either.
It is not surprising that Erasmus has stuck with the same men up front for this week’s Test – barring Mostert coming in for Etzebeth.
The Bok pack did well against England last weekend at Twickenham and dominated in several areas; it is just fair that they get another opportunity this week.
The only real department of concern will be the line-outs, where Malcolm Marx missed his jumpers on four occasions.
Mostert is one of six overseasbased players included after not being available last week, and it’s fully understandable why Erasmus has gone that route. They’re all experienced campaigners with knowledge of northern conditions and of some of the French players, and it’s a Test the Boks won’t want to slip up in.
Willie le Roux and Faf de Klerk certainly strengthen the side at scrumhalf and fullback, and as regular starters this year, were always going to get picked ahead of the younger rookies.
One has to feel for Damian Willemse, who started at 15 last week and is now out of the match 23 completely, but Le Roux has always been Erasmus’s first choice.
On the bench, Saracens-based Vincent Koch, highly-rated in England, gets an opportunity, coming in for Wilco Louw, and his experience of scrumming in northern conditions and against some of the Frenchmen will also boost the Bok set-piece.
Francois Louw, with 62 caps, is the most senior man in the match-day squad and a player who is rated by Erasmus. Again, the Bok boss has gone for experience, but it would have been nice to see Sikhumbuzo Notshe, with his pace, getting a go this week.
Cheslin Kolbe’s X-factor and experience – and his knowledge of the French – would have got him the nod ahead of Willemse, and you can’t argue too much about that. Perhaps Willemse could have stayed in the squad, though, and got a chance as Handre Pollard’s back-up this week, with Elton Jantjies sitting out.
The Lions man’s squad place is safe so Willemse getting an opportunity to maybe play at 10 wouldn’t have been a bad move.
All in all, it’s a very solid Bok squad. They now need to perform as well as they look.
ON WILLIE AND FAF BEING BACK
Playing France away in Paris is a big challenge and I definitely think guys like Embrose (Papier) and Damian (Willemse) learned a lot last week (against England), but getting Cheslin (Kolbe), Faf (de Klerk) and all the experienced guys back now, when we have to grind out a win this week, is pretty important.
ON THEIR CHANCES OF WINNING
It will be a tough one. The Boks did well last year to win and it will be the same this year; we’ll have to grind it out.
We’ve had two close losses on the trot now (to New Zealand and England) so we’re desperate and would like to turn it around. Not sure who the favourites are.
ON LIFE WITHOUT EBEN ETZEBETH
If you take 60-70 caps out of a team, it won’t be the same team, but players being given a chance, like RG Snyman, Pieter-Steph being one of the best flank-locks I’ve worked with... they’re quality. We’ll miss Eben for sure, but we’ve got proper replacements and we’re close to matching what we’re missing in him.