Cape Town — It is either a hint of panic or — more likely — a continuation of his desire to build depth and experience that Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is set to ring the changes against the Wallabies this weekend.
After losing 32-19 to the Pumas in Mendoza in their last outing‚ Erasmus would be within his rights to make changes based on performances.
But he has remained steadfast that every detail (injuries notwithstanding) has been thought out and that there is a long-term plan to his team selections with a view to 2019’s World Cup.
Indications from Bok training are that Erasmus could make up to half-a-dozen changes from the side that lost to the Pumas at a venue where SA has traditionally struggled.
Australia at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium present a specific challenge on a pitch where the game tends to be faster. Eddie Jones called it one of the "fastest fields" in rugby when he coached the Reds and Wallabies. Since the stadium was completed in time for the 2003 World Cup, the Wallabies have played the Boks seven times at the Suncorp and won six.
They win by an average score of 27-15‚ which included their record 49-0 win over SA in 2006. Over their previous 85 meetings at all venues‚ the Boks win by an average score of 19-18‚ underlining how much Suncorp benefits the Wallabies.
In 26 Tests at Suncorp‚ Australia have won 19 and drawn one with an average winning score of 31-18.
Given the perception of the pitch being suited to attacking rugby‚ flyhalf Elton Jantjies is set for a third start under Erasmus‚ in what is forecast to be decent weather conditions.
Jantjies’s two previous starts in the Erasmus era were played in torrential rain in Washington against Wales and Cape Town against England. The Boks lost both matches and Jantjies struggled‚ especially at Newlands.
Handré Pollard has been erratic with the boot in the Rugby Championship‚ which adds to the argument for Jantjies’s recall. Fit-again Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel could also start in the midfield, with André Esterhuizen and Lukhanyo Am dropping out of this clash while Cheslin Kolbe is likely to be introduced to Test rugby from the bench.
The pack might see an overhaul, too, with Steven Kitshoff coming in at loosehead and Bongi Mbonambi at hooker for Tendai Mtawarira and Malcolm Marx. Mbonambi was excellent against England in June and will relish the chance to fight for the No1 spot before next week’s All Blacks Test. Erasmus, though‚ has more than likely planned to rest Mtawarira and Marx with a view to that meeting.
Pieter-Steph du Toit is set to reprise his role as blindside flank, with Siya Kolisi returning to openside and Francois Louw dropping out.
Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert are set to continue in the second row.