Erasmus faces home truths

The Independent on Saturday - - SPORT - JACQUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

jacques.vd­west­huyzen@inl.co.za IF WIN­NING away from home is con­sid­ered a bonus, then the Springboks have no op­tion but to win their two home matches in the Rugby Cham­pi­onship.

The fi­nal whis­tle will hardly have blown in Welling­ton to­day and un­der­fire coach Rassie Erasmus will have turned his at­ten­tion to the games in Port El­iz­a­beth, against Aus­tralia, and Pre­to­ria, against New Zealand, to re­store Bok pride.

It has been a rough few weeks for the new Bok boss after get­ting his coach­ing stint off on the right note against Eng­land in June.

Be­fore to­day’s Test, Erasmus’s team had won at home in the Rugby Cham­pi­onship against Ar­gentina, but then lost to the same side in Men­doza and also come un­stuck to Aus­tralia in Bris­bane.

On his way back to South Africa to­mor­row, Erasmus will con­sider not only the style of play em­ployed by his team, but also whether he ac­tu­ally has the right per­sonal in place to en­sure home wins in Port El­iz­a­beth on September 29 and in Pre­to­ria the fol­low­ing week­end.

He is likely to stick largely to the same group of play­ers who have done duty for him over the last two weeks, but may con­sider a few other op­tions, who’re cur­rently in­volved in the Currie Cup com­pe­ti­tion.

That is, of course, if Erasmus be­lieves he needs to boost his squad.

One player who springs to mind for the Bok coach to con­sider is the Lions’ Lionel Mapoe, who can play at out­side cen­tre and wing, and will bring ex­pe­ri­ence and con­sis­tency of per­for­mance into the Bok set-up.

Other back­line play­ers Erasmus may be think­ing about rop­ing in are Dil­lyn Leyds and An­dries Coet­zee, who can play wing and full­back – it is un­sure whether Wil­lie le Roux will be avail­able for the home Tests – while West­ern Prov­ince cen­tre Ruhan Nel, a Sev­ens spe­cial­ist, has been spo­ken about as the po­ten­tial an­swer to solve the Bok mid­field co­nun­drum.

Un­for­tu­nately for Erasmus, some of his first-choice play­ers are down with in­jury at the mo­ment and are un­likely to fea­ture be­fore the Novem­ber tour to Europe, if at all this sea­son.

Ex­cit­ing out­side backs Sbu Nkosi, Maka­zole Mapimpi, War­rick Ge­lant and Travis Is­maiel – all play­ers who would have come into con­sid­er­a­tion for all the Rugby Cham­pi­onship Tests this sea­son – are in­jured, while for­wards like Trevor Nyakane, Lizo Gqoboka, Lood de Jager, Cyle Brink and Jean-Luc du Preez are not ex­pected to be back any time soon.

Then there is Duane Ver­meulen, who Erasmus was des­per­ate to get re­leased from his Ja­panese club con­tract for to­day’s match against the All Blacks, but a ham­string in­jury picked up while play­ing for the Kubota Spears put paid to those mus­ings.

It is doubt­ful that the star of the home series against Eng­land in June will play for the Boks in the two home Tests.

Erasmus has a lot to con­sider and think about on his way home from New Zealand.

The Boks are ex­pected to have most of next week off be­fore get­ting to­gether next week­end in Port El­iz­a­beth to start prepa­ra­tions for the Aus­tralia match.

For a re­port on to­day’s Test in Welling­ton (kick-off 9.35am SA time) go to iol.co.za/sport and see In­de­pen­dent Me­dia’s coun­try­wide Sun­day news­pa­per of­fer­ings to­mor­row.

Lions util­ity back Lionel Mapoe is an op­tion for a Spring­bok re­call. Back­pagePix

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