It’s either a hint of panic‚ but more likely a continuation of his desire to build depth and experience that Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is set to ring the changes against the Wallabies in Brisbane this weekend.
After losing 32-19 to the Pumas in Mendoza in their last outing‚ Erasmus would be within his rights to make changes based on performances.
But he has remained steadfast that every detail [injuries notwithstanding] has been thought out and that there is a long-term plan to his team selections with a view to the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Indications from Bok training are that Erasmus could make up to half a dozen changes from the side that lost to the Pumas at a venue where SA has traditionally struggled.
Australia at the Suncorp Stadium presents a very specific challenge on a pitch where the game tends to be ‘faster’.
Eddie Jones‚ called it one of the ‘fastest fields’ in world rugby when he coached the Reds and Wallabies and results there tend to corroborate this theory.
Since the stadium was completed in time for the 2003 World Cup the Wallabies have played the Boks seven times at the Suncorp and won six.
They win by an average score of 27-15‚ which included their record 49-0 win over SA in 2006.
Over their previous 85 meetings at all venues‚ the Boks win by an average score of 19-18‚ underlining how much Suncorp benefits the Wallabies.
In 26 Tests at Suncorp‚ Australia have won 19 and drawn one with an average winning score of 31-18. The stadium yields an average of 49 points per Test.
Given the perception of the pitch being suited to attacking rugby‚ flyhalf Elton Jantjies is set for a third start under Erasmus‚ in what is forecast to be decent weather conditions.‚ although there could be some light showers before kick-off.
Jantjies’ two previous starts in the Erasmus era were played in torrential rain in Washington against Wales and Cape Town against England. The Boks lost both matches and Jantjies struggled‚ especially at Newlands.
Handre Pollard has been erratic with the boot in the Rugby Championship‚ which adds to the argument for Jantjies’ recall.
Fit-again Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel could also start in the midfield with Andre Esterhuizen and Lukhanyo Am dropping out of this clash while Cheslin Kolbe is likely to be introduced to Test rugby from the bench.
The pack might see an overhaul too with Steven Kitshoff coming in at loosehead and Bongi Mbonambi at hooker for Tendai Mtawarira and Malcolm Marx respectively.
Mbonambi was excellent against England in June and will relish the chance to fight for the No 1 spot before next week’s encounter against the All Blacks in Wellington. Erasmus though‚ has more than likely planned to rest Mtawarira and Marx with a view to that meeting.
Pieter-Steph du Toit is set to reprise his role as blindside flank with Siya Kolisi returning to openside and Francois Louw dropping out.
The Boks tend to enjoy a big ball-carrying No 7 and in Du Toit they have the perfect specimen. He also adds to the lineout options with Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert set to continue in the second row.