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Boks can feel the love

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The Boks are feeling the love from South Africa as crunch time approaches.

THE Springboks are feeling the love from South Africa as crunch time approaches for them on Sunday when they tackle Wales in the second World Cup semi-final.

Rugby fever is indeed ramping up to a new level and coach Rassie Erasmus says the Boks are appreciating the support. “We can feel the excitement coming from back home in South Africa and how much success will mean to our country,” Erasmus said. “We know we’re playing for South Africa; that this is bigger than an 80-minute game of rugby.”

Erasmus was speaking after announcing a team that shows one enforced change to the side that beat Japan. The bad news is that the Boks’ best player so far at the World Cup, Cheslin Kolbe, has succumbed to the ankle injury he sustained against Italy and which was patched up for last week’s quarter-final. Kolbe limped off in that game and now has been replaced by Sbu Nkosi.

That is the good news in that Nkosi has been in red hot form in the game time he has had (against Canada and Namibia) and many have felt he should have been in the starting line-up long ago, at the expense of Willie le Roux (with Kolbe moving to No 15).

Erasmus has again opted for a 6-2 split on the bench in favour of the forwards and I believe this educated gamble is the Boks’ trump card. We saw against Japan how the fresh tight five brought on for the last half an hour or so proved too much for the weakening Japanese. In effect, the Boks have fresh tight forwards on the field from start to finish and by the last quarter the slow poison takes hold.

We know that tight games are won and lost in the frantic last 15 minutes or so and I can’t see the Welsh forwards holding out on Sunday.

“It is a blow to lose Cheslin but we’ve been fortunate to have been able to be pretty consistent in selection and we’ve built some nice momentum,” said Erasmus.

“But the challenge has just got a lot tougher. Wales are the reigning Six Nations champions and apart from three defeats in their Rugby World Cup warm-ups, they have put together a really good sequence of results.

“But we’ve also found some rhythm and we’ll be ready for the challenge.

“We have been working hard for 18 months to put ourselves in a position to win the Rugby World Cup and that opportunity is now just 80 minutes away. These players have worked with unbelievable energy to get Springbok rugby back into this position and I know they will leave nothing out on the field on Sunday.”

Erasmus said that he is fortunate to have a player of Nkosi’s calibre to step in for Kolbe. “We really rate Sbu and he will slot straight in. I am as excited to see what he can do,” Erasmus said.

Springboks (15-1): Willie le Roux, Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handré Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (capt), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Tendai Mtawarira. Bench: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Franco Mostert, Francois Louw, Herschel Jantjies, Frans Steyn.