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Rassie willing to risk it

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SA coach not too concerned about short term disruptions as Springboks look ahead to the World Cup

WORTH THE GAMBLE: Rassie Erasmus, coach of the Springboks has made several changes to his team that will face-off against England at what is expected to be a wet Newlands Stadium in tomorrows third Test.

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus says that although the number of changes he’s made to his starting team for their last Test of the Incoming Series against England might be a bit of a risk, it’s crucial to see how the new additions handle the pressure at Newlands tomorrow (kick-off 5.05 pm).

Erasmus has made five changes to the team that clinched the series in Bloemfontein last week, with four of those coming in the backline.

Flyhalf Elton Jantjies, centres André Esterhuizen and Jesse Kriel and fullback Warrick Gelant will get their first starts in the series, while Handre Pollard and Willie le Roux move to the bench and scrumhalf Embrose Papier will offer back-up to Faf de Klerk.

Up front, Chiliboy Ralepelle will also get a run-on chance at hooker, while 37-year-old Schalk Brits will make his first Springbok appearance since the 2015 World Cup off the pine bleachers.

“I hope it’s not a big disruption,” Erasmus said about the changes.

“There’s four changes in the backline, and if you look at 10, 12 and 13 it’s actually the team that started against Wales. So there shouldn’t be a lack of understanding there.

“It’s definitely a bit of a risk, but we have to see how they handle the pressure.”

On the backline shuffle, Erasmus also said that Gelant’s inexperience gave Le Roux the nod in an already-inexperienced back three, and added that he’s looking forward to seeing how the attack-savvy Bulls back goes in what is expected to be a wet evening in Cape Town.

Gelant has been a consistent performer for the Bulls this season, and his positional play and kicking, with both feet, have been massive.

And while the conditions are a concern for Erasmus, Gelant has shown that he just might be able to “swim” (as Erasmus put it during the press conference), and a fine example of that was his big game against the Sharks at a wet Kings Park earlier this season.

“Warrick is a guy who has consistently knocked on the door, I guess what Willie had on him was just experience if you consider Sbu and Aphiwe both only have two caps. The wingers have now got a little bit more experience, and Jesse brings 31 caps to the mix.

“We all know what Warrick can do with ball in hand, his clearance kicking is excellent, off the left and right foot. If it’s wet, we’ll learn a lot about him, if it’s dry, we’ll have typical Warrick Gelant play. If he doesn’t do well we’ll fix it after the game.”

With the series won and rugby’s biggest spectacle approaching, Erasmus’ decision to get a better look at some of his options is a sensible one.

The SA Director of Rugby is also looking forward to pacey No 9 Papier’s contributions.

A number or players have put their hands up in this year’s Super Rugby competition, and Papier is no different.

The 21-year-old’s promise on attack has highlighted him as one to watch, especially in a position that has been as puzzling as scrumhalf for the Boks in recent years.

“I’m very excited about Embrose, he’s lightning fast probably one of the fastest guys in the team, and that’s including Aphiwe and Sbu. At his age he has some work-ons in terms of his passing and his box-kicking, but he’s a natural attacker and he tackles really well and he understands the defensive system.”

With Erasmus having had a look at Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am in the first two Tests, he explained that the depth at inside centre is promising – especially as the focus will continue to shift to the World Cup.

“We’re privileged to have two players like that (De Allende and Esterhuizen) and a few others.

“There’s still a guy like Rohan at the Lions, Pollard can also play 12, and then there’s Patrick Lambie, Damian Willemse and Frans Steyn who can play 10 and 12.

“So we have to find the solution at 10,12 and 15 going forward. So I think André and Damian are fighting really hard to be in the World Cup squad.

“The weather at this stage looks dry, but we might get some rain in the World Cup and if they want to make the World Cup squad they must prove that they can handle wet weather, crowd noise, different referees and a lot of other factors.”

On his calls in the pack, Erasmus said: “I think Steven Kitshoff is definitely close to a start, he’s definitely not second best. I think he and Beast are really going toe-to-toe, and I think Thomas is growing into a starting tighthead and the way we’re integrating him into the squad is working well.

“A guy like (Schalk) Brits we know what he has. There was a temptation to get him into the starting line-up, but I think it would be very unfair for a guys who’s only trained with us for seven or eight days to go straight into the starting line-up.

“I thought whenever Jean-Luc and Sikhumbuzo came on they really made an impact, so we kept that the same.”