By now, Rassie Erasmus knows the make-up of his preferred 23 to face England. But before he names that squad, he must first select a side to take on Wales in the USA, and deal with some arduous travel just one week before battling Eddie Jones’ warriors.
These complicated logistics dictate that Erasmus boxes clever. He’s spoken of leaving a squad in South Africa, consisting of mostly first-choice players, to gear up for the June 9 Test against England in Johannesburg before he flies to the States.
European regional competitions are in play-off mode which means most of the earmarked overseas-based Springboks are unlikely to be available to front Wales on June 2.
So who will Erasmus call up for the USA Test? Picking a team that has continuity will be both crucial and tricky, and that’s why I think he’ll go for a Bulls pack and a Sharks backline.
Erasmus plans on regrouping with an enlarged squad in SA on Sunday May 27, with some players from that group set to play in America the following week.
The Sharks have a Super Rugby match against the Jaguares in Argentina on Friday, May 25. How, when and where players selected from that Sharks group will join the US-bound party are questions Erasmus will have to answer. Will they jet home from Argentina to attend the Sunday workshop, or will they fly directly from Buenos Aires to Washington DC to meet up with their fellow countrymen? The latter option would solve jetlag issues.
The lineup that starts against Wales should looking something like this: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Roelof Smit, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Ox Nche
Lizo Gqoboka misses out through injury, and he’s replaced by Cheetahs loosehead Ox Nche. Strauss assumes the captaincy role again and has a chance to purge some demons while Nyakane gets his first start at tighthead for South Africa.
Jenkins and Snyman must both be champing at the bit to show they have what it takes to step up and be considered for the England series in the wake of Eben Etzebeth, and now Lood de Jager, suffering injuries. De Jager’s recent setback may also mean that Sharks captain Ruan Botha – originally not part of the alignment camps – could join his mates in the US to provide some depth at lock.
Roelof Smit’s been on the fringe of Bok selection for a while, Thembelani Bholi gets his first taste of Test rugby, and Dan Du Preez will be intent on proving he offers as much as his twin brother. The backline would have the continuity of Sharks halfbacks Schreuder and Rob Du Preez, and centres Esterhuizen and Am, while Curwin Bosch can cover fullback and flyhalf from the bench.
Erasmus fields a more seasoned back three of Mvovo, Combrinck and Coetzee for the Welsh Test while boldly including the exciting Aphiwe Dyantyi, Sbu Nkosi and Warrick Gelant in the squad that’s preparing for England.
Is this the line-up Erasmus will pick for his debut Test, and is it a Bok team capable of beating Wales?
Follow Daryn on Twitter: @KatzDaryn
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