Rassie Erasmus. Picture: REUTERS/MATTHEW CHILDS
Rassie Erasmus. Picture: REUTERS/MATTHEW CHILDS

The importance of SA A’s clash against the British & Irish Lions has been significantly elevated in stature as the Springbok brains trust has been forced to load the team with A-grade players.

In fact‚ so short of match time are the Springboks that coaching high priest Rassie Erasmus begged the Lions to agree to a second match against the A-side‚ replacing the tourists’ clash with the Stormers on Saturday.

With Bok coach Jacques Nienaber still in self-isolation‚ Erasmus is taking charge of the SA A side for their clash against the Lions in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Erasmus wants the Boks‚ who have played just one Test since winning the 2019 Rugby World Cup‚ to get match fit‚ especially the players who have recovered from Covid-19.

His request has fallen on deaf ears with the Lions committed to honouring their tour match with the Stormers.

Erasmus indicated he was less concerned with the Bok combinations gelling‚ but that match readiness needed to be sharpened ahead of the first Test in Cape Town on July 24.

Erasmus and Co are desperate for players such as captain and flank Siya Kolisi and flyhalf Handré Pollard to get more game time under the belt.

“A guy like Siya and a few others — Frans Steyn‚ Handré Pollard — those guys who tested positive really early might make it. Some guys‚ you know‚ can just slot in‚ and some guys take a bit longer and need a few days to get the engines going. So some will slot in immediately and it will be touch and go and other guys will be ready for the second and third match.”

Further down the line Erasmus is hoping to get Duane Vermeulen back from his ankle injury in time for the third Test. The Lions are also hoping to get a high-profile player back in the form of original tour captain Alun Wyn Jones‚ who injured his shoulder in a warm-up game against Japan.

“His [Vermeulen’s] bubble will work very much the same to Alun Wyn Jones’s bubble‚ because Alun Wyn is apparently close to joining them‚” Erasmus revealed.

“Duane is maybe in the mix for the last Test match. So‚ the way Alun Wyn Jones will join the Lions’ bubble‚ Duane will very much do the same with us‚ if both of them obviously are fit‚” said Erasmus.

Apart from the players in isolation‚ Erasmus explained the team travelled to Cape Town without all hands on deck in the coaching and staff complement either.

“Currently, myself‚ Daan Human‚ Mzwandile Stick and Deon Davids are with the team. Two of our physios are still in quarantine in Johannesburg.

“One of our nutritionists is still that side and Jacques is still that side. One of our players is actually a false positive and he is driving down from Joburg.

“There are challenging things‚ but the team we put out on the park will be the best Springbok team.”

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