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Coach out to build depth


Erasmus is looking to experiment in Saturday's dead rubber with one eye open on next year's World Cup, but the weather conditions will also influence his selections

FOR THE TEAM: Elton Jantjies may get an extended run against the English on Saturday. Picture: BackpagePix

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is set to make a number of changes for their last Test against England on Saturday, and Elton Jantjies could be one of those changes for the Newlands event.

In the first two Tests in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein, Handré Pollard started at flyhalf, with Jantjies coming on late in the second half at Ellis Park.

At a press conference on Monday, Erasmus said that he’s looking to experiment in the dead rubber with one eye on next year’s World Cup, while he added that the weather conditions will also influence his selections.

Erasmus explained that it’s important to build depth, especially when it comes to the spine of the team. Hooker Schalk Brits is one of the changes Erasmus mentioned for the Newlands Test earlier this week, and the others could come at flyhalf, midfield – with Jesse Kriel and André Esterhuizen yet to get an extended run – and at No 5 lock, as Marvin Orie is also one that Erasmus will want to get a closer look at, whether it’s in the run-on side or off the bench.

And should he get a starting chance on Saturday, Jantjies’ goals will be quite different to the ones he had a couple of seasons ago.

“It’s not an individual thing, for me it’s all about running the system and making sure I make the right decisions for my team and making sure I get the best out of my team, “ Jantjies said yesterday.

“I’m obviously a little bit older now, back then it was all about the individual – making sure I kick all my goals and making sure I create a lot of tries. But at this point it’s all about making sure that the system runs, seeing to it that we play in the right areas of the field and seeing if it’s a run, pass or kick option. Making sure that I know the guys around me and how they like to play is also important.”

With Pollard, Jantjies and Robert du Preez currently in the flyhalf frame and Damian Willemse having presented himself as a future star, Jantjies also said that it’s a great time for South African rugby in terms of talent at No 10.

“It’s good to see the talented flyhalves coming through, they’ll take us for another five or six years and that’s a positive thing for South African rugby.”

Jantjies also said that Erasmus’ ability to think outside the Boks has been a big part of their progress.

“Rassie is someone special.

“Some of the things he picks up on the field I don’t think other coaches are even looking for these things. He is a very different coach. If the coach has a certain mindset, it is going to affect the other coaches and then filter down to the players. Rassie has been great in that respect. I think that all the spectators can see what is happening with this group, both on and off the field.”

Another positive thing rising in SA Rugby is the focus on off-the-ball work. Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick yesterday provided more detail on his role in the coaching set-up and his hand in a couple of objectives Erasmus and co are striving towards.

“One of my key focuses is the small stuff we do off the ball and shape,” he said. “If the coach requires more numbers on attack and defence it’s my job to make sure that he has the numbers.

“We sometimes tend to focus on what’s happening with the ball and we forget about the movement around the park. So one of my focuses is the small stuff we do off the ball.

“We always praise other teams when they do a lot of good things off the ball and we don’t focus on them in South Africa.”

It’s not far fetched to say that northern hemisphere rugby is catching up to its southern counterparts in certain areas. And Stick believes that fine-tuning skills and decision-making is one way of assuring that the Springboks retain and sharpen their edge.

“Back in the day we were more physical and we could run over players. If you look at the European teams they’re catching up with us now when it comes to the physical part,” he said. “So my philosophy is that you can’t always rely on being physical, you need to be smart. So that’s why I work with the players one-on-one and help them improve their individual skills and decision-making.

“Aerial skills were a challenge for us in the last couple of years. We had a lot of positive results against England in terms of the kicking game in Bloemfontein. That’s our main focus going forward. I can help out anywhere I’m required, besides with the forwards.”