Boks primed for colossal forward showdown with Italy
Coach calls up Tendai Mtawarira‚ Bongi Mbonambi and Lood de Jager to help spread the load
Omaezaki — In anticipation of a huge forward battle against Italy‚ Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has promoted loose head prop Tendai Mtawarira‚ hooker Bongi Mbonambi and lock Lood de Jager to his starting line-up for Friday’s Rugby World Cup (RWC) pool B game.
Erasmus has also gone for a six-two split on the bench, hoping to get similar forward output either side of the half-time whistle at Shizuoka Stadium.
With the Italian forward play a much-hyped topic this week‚ Mtawarira comes in to lend experience‚ the sheer height and weight of De Jager earned him a place‚ while Mbonambi cracked the nod for consistently occupying the higher end of the performance scale this season.
Unseating Malcolm Marx took some doing.
The men who did duty against the All Blacks but who lost out in the starting line-up this time are Marx‚ Steven Kitshoff and Franco Mostert, who are all on the bench.
“Trevor [Nyakane]‚ Bongi and Beast have given us great performances at scrum time‚” said Erasmus. “The physical challenge will be at scrum time‚ will be at mauling‚ and I think having a bench like this after Bongi‚ Beast and Frans [Malherbe] will give us some benefit in the second half.”
He then extolled the virtues of De Jager, who delivered a man of the match performance against Namibia in the Boks’ previous game.
“Lood is exceptional at line-out time. Having him in charge of that in the short six-day turnaround was the way to go. Then you have Franco coming on with his work rate. It makes that switch really easy for us. Hopefully we will reap the benefits.”
Erasmus was keen to create a near two-pack scenario in his selections.
“We are actually spreading the load‚” said the coach. “When we look at the stats, the forwards have been doing the taxing stuff. By picking almost two full packs, we will spread the load more and that will help us in the next four-day turnaround.”
The rain that is excepted in Shizuoka on Friday night also played a role in the selections.
“We got the weather wrong in the first two games. We thought we’d get wet weather but the conditions are as if it is wet weather. It still looks like we’ll get a lot of rain on Friday.
“Last night it looked like less and this morning like even less.”
With only Herschel Jantjies and Frans Steyn on the bench among the backs‚ the latter will be required to cover a range of positions.
“If we get three injuries in the backline we’ll have to be very creative. We’ve got some plans there. In selecting a RWC squad, we thought we need someone like Frans who can cover 10‚ 12 and 15. It is a luxury.
“Damian [de Allende] has played 13 for us a lot. Cheslin [Kolbe] covers wing and Willie [le Roux] covers wing and Faf [de Klerk] can be a high-level flyhalf‚ if you have to do that.
“We are versatile enough with our backline combinations to cover that.”
Springbok squad: Willie le Roux; Cheslin Kolbe‚ Lukhanyo Am‚ Damian de Allende‚ Makazole Mapimpi; Handré Pollard‚ Faf de Klerk; Duane Vermeulen‚ Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ Siya Kolisi; Lood de Jager‚ Eben Etzebeth; Frans Malherbe‚ Bongi Mbonambi‚ Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: Malcolm Marx‚ Steven Kitshoff‚ Vincent Koch‚ RG Snyman‚ Franco Mostert‚ Francois Louw; Herschel Jantjies‚ Frans Steyn.