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Delicate balance

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Bok coach faces a complicated juggling act between Rugby Championship and World Cup

PREPARING FOR FLIGHT: The Springboks will have to be extremely cautious about how they exert themselves with the Rugby Championship and the World Cup looming large. Picture: Sydney Mahlangu BackpagePix

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus feels he will have to balance the need to win the shortened version of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship and at the same time prepare the team for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan, starting in September.

The Rugby Championship starts on Saturday, July 20 at Emirates Airline Park where South Africa will host Australia, and then SA begin their World Cup campaign on Saturday, September 21, against New Zealand in Japan.

The shortened version of the Rugby Championship means that the Springboks will only get to play three matches in this year’s competition – one at home against Australia and two away, against New Zealand and Argentina – instead of the regular six matches of three at home and three away.

Erasmus believes that his team will need to be very competitive throughout the event and make home ground advantage count against Australia.

“We have to be clear on what we want to achieve in all those games. It is a very demanding competition.

“Australia will come here and show that they are on the right track for the Rugby World Cup by performing well against us in an away game on the Highveld,” Erasmus said. “The All Blacks will be another massive challenge again in Wellington and the Pumas will be eager to repeat their success of last year over us when we meet again in Salta. Like all the teams at this stage, we also have a few plans, but the main aim is to win the competition.

“We still have to perform really well and make the home-ground advantage count in the home match against the Wallabies, and then I’d say we have to be very competitive in our two away matches against the All Blacks and Pumas.”

Besides the competitive nature of these three matches in the Rugby Champs, Erasmus also faces the looming threat of injuries to his Springbok players. But Erasmus simply points out that injuries will always be part of the game.

“With the extra Test we play against Argentina in Pretoria (after the Rugby Champs) and the Rugby World Cup warm-up match against Japan, it means we only have five Tests before the start of the Rugby World Cup,” he says.

“We’ve done our homework and our detailed planning and we have a clear strategy on how we want to do things.

“Injuries, though, are part and parcel of the game and whatever happens you just have to deal with it and carry on.”

ANA