Rassie makes a plan for Twickenham clash
The Bok coach opts to start Van Zyl at scrumhalf, but says Papier will make an impact on Test
London — Scrumhalf is a necessary evil of rugby‚ a position that needs to be filled for the damn straight but unloved reason that somebody has to shovel the ball from the forwards to the backs.
And then Faf de Klerk arrives to spear tackle that notion into touch with some of the most creative‚ rivetting play yet seen from someone in a No9 jersey.
But De Klerk will not run out for the Springboks against England at Twickenham on Saturday. Neither will fullback Willie le Roux‚ wing Cheslin Kolbe and loose forward Francois Louw.
They are unavailable because the match is outside World Rugby’s window for Tests.
So a boer had to make a plan‚ and despite the fact that scrumhalf Embrose Papier has been on the bench for the Boks’ last two games‚ he is again among the replacements.
Instead‚ Ivan van Zyl has cracked the nod. Why?
"It’s an obvious question that a lot of people will ask‚" the boer who had to make that plan‚ Bok coach Rassie Erasmus‚ said
"I just think that [with] conditions and the tactical way England play‚ Ivan is maybe a better fit to start. Embrose is a more instinctive player‚ which is great on hard grounds.
"He’ll definitely have an impact on this game [but] in these conditions and the tactical way we want to play against England‚ Ivan is a better choice."
Did Van Zyl‚ who has played three Tests but is more conservative — limited‚ even — than his peers have the varying skills to cope with the challenge?
"In my experience of these conditions you don’t need a lot of versatility‚" Erasmus said‚ a backhanded compliment if ever there was one.
"You have to be very smart tactically and you have to control things — sometimes with the boot, depending what the weather does."
Thunder grumbled over London on Thursday and intermediate showers throughout the day added grimness to the greyness of the skies. But Saturday‚ the forecast says‚ should be dry and partly cloudy.
Whatever the weather‚ it will be a Red Letter day for Damian Willemse‚ who will start at fullback for the first time.
"We’ve always had Willie le Roux available‚ and that’s a luxury‚" Erasmus said. "Luckily Damian has been with us for most of the Test matches and he’s comfortable in the setup.
Then there is what Erasmus described as‚ "Jislaaik — there’s four locks!"
But one of them‚ Pieter-Steph du Toit will spend "probably about 40 minutes" in the tight five before being moved to flank. That is Erasmus’s plan to ease back into the fray Lood de Jager‚ who has been out with torn pectoral since May 12 and has been named on the bench.
Still another part of the blueprint was the bigger work in progress‚ as Erasmus explained: "We’re in the process of evolving from just being a grunting‚ bulking‚ running-over-you team."
The XV shows seven changes from the side that started SA’s last match‚ against New Zealand at Loftus Versveld on October 6.
Did all the unnecessary tinkering irk Erasmus?
"When we accepted the Test match we knew what the rules were‚" he said. "It can’t annoy us after we’ve accepted the Test."
Eddie Jones and England have bigger problems‚ what with their ranks decimated by injury. Consequently, their loose trio have only 10 caps between them and their props have started just four Tests.
So is Jones being silly to chuck Dylan Hartley and Owen Farrell into that mix as‚ of all things‚ co-captains?
Erasmus saw that one coming: "To comment on what other coaches do is sometimes the wrongest thing you can do."