While he has already picked “80 percent” of his Rugby World Cup squad, Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus believes there is still a chance for someone to do a Frans Steyn and force his way into the group going to Japan.
The Boks will play just five Tests before their tournament opener against the All Blacks in Yokohama on September 21, which includes the shortened Rugby Championship.
So, with little time to experiment, Erasmus has already begun his Bok alignment camps, having brought in 10 Stormers players in Cape Town over the last few days.
At the conclusion of the camp – which saw those players attend meetings and strategy sessions only, with no on-field training taking place – on Tuesday, Erasmus stated that he has worked out most of the players that will be required in Japan.
“I’d say about 80% of the squad is settled. It’s tough to say something like that, though, when you know that there will be injuries, and other guys may be asked to step up,” the Bok coach told reporters at a Newlands hotel, as reported by sarugbymag.co.za.
“As we’ve seen in the past, where a guy like Frans Steyn broke down the door ahead of the 2007 tournament, there will always be space for someone special to force their way into the mix.”
But one position that is worrying Erasmus somewhat is scrumhalf. While Faf de Klerk is the undoubted No 1, there are a whole host of candidates for the two remaining halfback spots – Embrose Papier, Ivan van Zyl, and Cobus Reinach among those.
“In terms of positions of concern… Faf de Klerk and Embrose Papier are the front-runners as the scrumhalves at this stage, but we know that you need three scrumhalves for that squad,” Erasmus said.
“Ivan van Zyl, Ross Cronjé, Louis Schreuder, Cobus Reinach… they will all be competing for a place and that group is not quite settled yet. In terms of other positions, we will see how injuries influence selection.”
The Boks’ first Test of 2019 is against Australia on July 20 at Ellis Park, with their only World Cup warm-up game against Japan taking place on September 6 in Saitama.
“We tried to achieve three strategic goals last year – win Tests against the best teams‚ transform the team and build squad depth and experience‚” TimesLIVE reported Erasmus as saying.
“This year there is only one strategic goal – to try and win the World Cup.
“We have three Rugby Championship Tests and a fourth Test against Argentina before the World Cup. The first step towards our World Cup goal is to try and win the Rugby Championship.
“So, we will select the best team in the Championship, and then we will decide how we approach the fourth Test against Argentina. If we are on a roll, we might want to keep a full-strength team and if we’re not‚ we might approach it differently.
“At this stage, our opening (Rugby Championship) game against Australia is vital. The All Blacks in Wellington is important in terms of how we set the tone for Yokohama.
“The last Test against the Pumas might be the decider to win the Championship‚ so I see us picking the best possible side for those Tests.”