“We play to win every Test and that means we want to win the Rugby Championships as well that would be prize number one”
As important as the World Cup is this year, playing well in – and hopefully winning – the Rugby Championship would be a massive boost for the Springboks, according to national coach Rassie Erasmus.
The Springboks kick-off their shortened Rugby Championship campaign with a match against Australia at Ellis Park next week and that’s followed by a Test against the All Blacks in Wellington a week later. The Boks then wrap up their competition with a match against Argentina in Salta, two weeks after that.
Erasmus said yesterday the Rugby Championship was vital to build momentum and confidence ahead of the World Cup in Japan in September, October and November.
“Of course you want to peak at the right time and everything this year will build towards the World Cup, but we don’t want to lose in the Rugby Champs and say, ‘judge us at the World Cup’.
“We play to win every Test and that means we want to win the Rugby Championships as well that would be prize number one,” said Erasmus.
“But, we also have to take into account the logistical challenges facing us in the Rugby Champs; the fact we only have one game at home (next week against the Wallabies at Ellis Park).
“We can’t realistically expect to beat the Wallabies and then climb on a plane and go to Wellington to take on New Zealand.
“It’s why we’ve decided to push two different teams into those two games, and they’re not A and B teams, they’re two competitive teams.
“It’s the only way we can give ourselves a realistic chance of beating both those teams,” said Erasmus.
Then, following the Argentina Test, the Boks will welcome the Pumas to Loftus Versfeld for a friendly international, which won’t form part of the Rugby Championship.
“With the hand we’ve been dealt with regards the scheduling of the games, we have to split our resources a little.
“It also gives us a chance to test fringe players, because we’ve got a bigger squad, so in that last Test against Argentina we might be able to rest some guys and give others, who’re not part of our squad now, an opportunity.”
Erasmus added he’d already picked the two teams to play against the Wallabies and All Blacks – and had told the players – and insisted there was little to choose between them, because there is so little to choose between the players in his squad.
“What’s the difference between (Lukanhyo) Am and (Jesse) Kriel, Beast (Mtawarira) and (Steven) Kitshoff, Trevor (Nyakane) and Frans (Malherbe), (Franco) Mostert and Lood (de Jager), (Makazole) Mapimpi, Sbu (Nkosi), Aphiwe (Dyantyi) and Cheslin (Kolbe)?
“There are very few players in the squad who are streets ahead of the next guy, and that’s a nice thing at this stage. Only four or five guys are clear-cut first choices.
“Even though Australia will pick their first choice against us next week; I’m comfortable that we’ll play mix-and-match teams in the first two Tests. Imagine we win next week, with 15 guys already in New Zealand, and what a boost that would be.”