Intensity replaces experience in squad
SPRINGBOK coach Rassie Erasmus believes what his 31-man squad lacks in Rugby World Cup experience they more than make up for in form and youth.
Fourteen players in Erasmus’ squad will be making their debut at the global showpiece in Japan next month. Three players – Frans Steyn, Tendai Mtawarira and Francois Louw – will feature at their third World Cup, while 12 will be making their second appearance.
“We didn’t have the luxury to pick a team with a lot of World Cup experience,” Erasmus said. “In 2011, we had (a) experienced team, but what you gain in experience you lose in availability and agility. Of 31 guys there were always six or seven players sitting next to the field with a hamstring or shoulder injury. You don’t have a lot of training numbers, and you couldn’t have intensity during sessions.”
Erasmus was fortunate that he didn’t have too many injury concerns ahead of yesterday’s World Cup squad announcement.
“In the last four Test matches we had 35 or 36 guys, and there wasn’t one day that a player was sitting on the side of the field,” Erasmus said.
“There was always 35 to 36 guys training and available. I believe that lifts the intensity.”
The Bok coach said that the lack of experience might be one of the squad’s weaknesses, but it could easily be turned into a strength. The reality is Erasmus selected the best possible squad he believed could do the business in Japan.
“We are taking a bit of a risk where we don’t have those calm heads, those guys who have been there with bigmatch temperament,” Erasmus said.
“Hopefully we make up for it with the intensity and all the coaching we get with them.”
Although there was never any doubt that Bok captain, Siya Kolisi would be South Africa’s leader at the World Cup, he was officially named as the skipper yesterday.
Kolisi will become the first black SA player to lead the Boks out into battle at the global showpiece. It was a remarkable rise for Kolisi from his humble beginnings growing up in the township of Zwide in Port Elizabeth.
“I’m honoured, I’ve known coach (Erasmus) for quite a long time, he gave me my first contract out of school,” Kolisi said.
“He knows where I come from, this kind of opportunities you don’t dream about. I am really happy, I am excited, but I am also very nervous.”
Kolisi said he hoped his ascend to the top would serve as an example to kids who grow up in similar circumstances as he did. Kolisi also said that the Boks will be going to Japan with the intention of lifting the Webb Ellis Cup for a third time.
“The ultimate dream is to win the World Cup, and that has been the coach’s message since he started with us,” Kolisi said. “He has made sure we know the most important thing is the Springboks, not us as individual players. The only thing he wants from us is to work as hard as we can. That is how we measure each other as players and teammates.”
Backs: Willie le Roux, Warrick Gelant, Sbu Nkosi, Cheslin Kolbe, Makazole Mapimpi, Jesse Kriel, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Frans Steyn, Handre Pollard, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Herschel Jantjies, Cobus Reinach. Forwards: Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (capt), Kwagga Smith, Franco Mostert, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, RG Snyman, Trevor Nyakane, Frans Malherbe, Vincent Koch, Steven Kitshoff, Tendai Mtawarira, Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Schalk Brits