The Rassie Erasmus era has stalled after a promising launch, the AOR team debates three changes to jumpstart the Boks when the Rugby Championship resumes in Brisbane.
Damien Willemse is an incredibly appealing option at flyhalf, especially given the woes incumbent Handre Pollard is suffering from at the moment. The Stormers pivot is not the finished product yet, though, and asking him to attend finishing school in Australia and New Zealand would be cruel. Play him off the bench.
It was only a few weeks ago that we were calling Pollard the “obvious” solution at 10. Now we want to throw him to the dogs. Let’s rather interrogate the reasons for his current form. I have a feeling it’s not only to do with the player.
Get a kicking coach
Only Beauden Barrett can get away with being a poor kicker. We know Pollard can kick, but he is kicking like a Telly Tubby after the 12 in 1. Get someone in to fix it!
Balance the loose trio
As said in an earlier debate, Warren Whiteley deserves a shot at the No 8 jersey in the newly-created environment. It did come with the proviso of “Should he fail, then rightly so, be gone”, though.
Has he failed? Not quite yet, but his lack of physicality is being exposed.
At the time, I suggested two options: As the 8th man in the existing trio with Siya Kolisi, playing closer to the ball, and either Jean-Luc Du Preez and Pieter-Steph du Toit at 7. Or with a ball-hawk like Francois Louw or Marco van Staden at 6, with Kolisi playing a more roving role at 7.
Erasmus went with the latter.
So, if continuing with Whiteley, either Van Staden must get a go at openside in place of Louw, or Kolisi must move to 6, and one of Du Toit or Dan du Preez (given his brother’s injury) must come in at 7.
Fire Swys, hire kicking coach
Dominating the kicking game is the biggest indicator of success in pro rugby. The Boks don’t have money for a specialist kicking coach.
What they do have money for is De Bruin, an attack coach installing a plan that won’t work at Test level. The Lions blueprint is pure genius, but – to cut a long story short – it’s based on baiting fish that don’t swim in international waters.
Erasmus is a lineout guru and that set piece is the platform from which the majority of first-phase strikes end in pay dirt. Sack Swys, let Rassie handle the attack, and hire an expert to (among other things) recalibrate the goal-kickers.
Upsize the pack
Replace Franco Mostert, Siya Kolisi and Warren Whiteley with RG Snyman, Juarno Augustus and Dan du Preez.
Mostert is the same dimensions as Sergio Parisse, Kolisi is a body double for Samu Kerevi, and Whiteley would be very comfortable in Israel Folau’s PJs. They’re all undersized and clearly not built to deliver the direct game the Boks urgently need to revive.
Snyman, Augustus and Du Preez won’t win a triple-jump medal, but you should see what they can do with a shot put.
The Boks need to solve a messy flyhalf situation and Damian Willemse is an all-rounder with a very high ceiling. Unlike Elton Jantjies, Willemse isn’t petrified of contact and, where Handre Pollard is about as subtle as a hammer, the Test rookie has all the tools to keep defenders honest.
Andre Esterhuizen’s bathroom scale may say 110kgs, but his physical contributions register in the low 90s – drop him, shift Pollard to 12 (where he can help Willemse with the reads, and concentrate on splitting the uprights), and let’s break in the playmaker who is taking the Boks to RWC2023.
Whose quick fixes are best, or do you have even better solutions for the Springboks?