Erasmus has a big decision to make before going out to tackle the All Blacks, who look settled in the back row with Kieran Read set to lead the team at No 8
IS it time for Rassie Erasmus to gamble somewhat by picking the relatively unknown – to the All Blacks players for one – specialist fetcher flank Marco van Staden this weekend?
If the Springboks are to have any chance of upsetting the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday then Erasmus is going to have to get his team make-up spot on, and getting Van Staden into the mix in a new-look loose trio could be a key call.
It is a match where the odds are heavily stacked against Erasmus and his men, with not too many observers prepared to give the tourists a chance. And that is why the inclusion of Van Staden, at openside, or even No 8, could prove a master-stroke.
Either way Erasmus needs to shake up his back row who have failed to perform at the standard expected so far in this Rugby Championship.
Last weekend’s trio – captain Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Warren Whiteley – did nothing against the Wallabies to make one think they are the answer going forward, and that they will be up to the task of neutralising the All Black threat.
The reality though is not even Bok coach Erasmus, it seems, has an idea who to play in his back row, such has been the merry-go-round in the department this season.
Whiteley hasn’t fired at all up to now at No 8, and should count himself lucky if he makes the starting team to face the All Blacks this weekend.
And, Kolisi, irrespective of being the captain, has also got to up his game. It hasn’t helped his cause that Erasmus has employed him as both a “fetcher” No 6 and “ball-carrying” No 7 up to now, not allowing the man to settle in any position.
Francois Louw has been in and out since joining the squad for the Rugby Championship and Du Toit has been used at lock and flank, while the injured Jean-Luc du Preez is unavailable. Sikhumbuzo Notshe has also been used from the bench, but has not featured in the Rugby Championship.
Erasmus has a big decision to make before going out to tackle the All Blacks, who look settled in the back row with Kieran Read set to lead the team at No 8.
Will Kolisi play at No 6 or 7 this week and who’ll be the other flank – Du Toit or one of Louw or Van Staden? And will Whiteley get the chop for Notshe or Louw, or even Van Staden? And is there any chance of Erasmus complicating matters further with a surprise pick of Franco Mostert at No 7 – where he played regularly for the Lions in Super Rugby – and moving Du Toit back to lock?
Erasmus is in a catch-22; he desperately needs continuity, but he also needs a firing loose trio. Kolisi teaming up with the breakdown specialist Van Staden and one of Notshe or Louw this week might just be the route Erasmus takes.
But ultimately something needs to be done to turn things around.