No need to gnash your teeth, Rassie’s got his plan sorted
Bok coach promised brave decisions and we should let him get on with spreading game time among the squad
When Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus in the buildup to the Test series against England stressed he needed to build capacity, there was an audible gnashing of teeth.
His detractors were quick to question his selection policy, arguing that it was the coach’s way of wriggling out of being held accountable if results didn’t go his way.
Sure enough the Springboks’ results were underwhelming with just three wins from their first six clashes, but their performances against the All Blacks suggest they can go toe to toe with the best when primed for those contests.
It is clear Erasmus targeted those matches to regain some public sentiment that was lost through earlier misadventures.
A win against the All Blacks and matching them with the same number of points in those two matches represents a massive improvement after their capricious performances against the old foe last year.
In defeat the Loftus Test vindicated the selection policy he spoke of in the middle of the year. Although he can assemble a starting team that can stand its ground against the game’s heavy hitters, the coach needs to blood more players in the cut and thrust of Test rugby.
His bench failed to get the job done last weekend – and who can blame them given their limited experience of the game’s hottest furnace?
Vincent Koch, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Embrose Papier, RG Snyman and Damian Willemse had just Test 26 caps between them before that game. The players they replaced had a combined tally of 226 Test caps before the Loftus showdown.
With the lead the Boks had, Erasmus, given his stated aim to spread game time in his group, had little alternative but to push the greenhorns into action. Failure to do so would have been a betrayal of his own objective.
Yes, the Test was lost, but not sight of the bigger picture.
It is often said that experience cannot be bought, but it comes at a premium when you build a 30-plus strong squad that can compete to the end of the Rugby World Cup.
Next month’s end of year tour will present Erasmus the best opportunity to spread game time around his squad.
The Boks play England upfront and for that Test he can assemble something resembling the team the played at Loftus. Victory at Twickenham will give him licence to spread game time in his touring group in the Tests against France, Scotland and Wales.
Players like Papier, Willemse, Snyman, Notshe, Bongi Mbonambi, S’bu Nkosi, Marco van Staden, Andre Esterhuizen, Wilco Louw, Thomas du Toit and Lukhanyo Am, should he regain fitness in time, should see more of the action.
Erasmus promised “brave decisions” and he should continue to yield to the courage of his conviction.