Bok coach Rassie won’t spring Rugby World Cup squad surprises
Rassie Erasmus’s Rugby World Cup squad unveiling on Monday is likely to be the least surprising since Jake White named the 2007 vintage because the current coach doesn’t do surprises.
The word most used to describe Erasmus by insiders who work with him is‚ “meticulous”.
He doesn’t want chaos‚ he doesn’t thrive on negative tension‚ which keeping 40 players in camp and only revealing the chosen World Cup 31 on Sunday‚ would have done.
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If Erasmus had his way the squad would have been sent out through a press release a week ago and that would have been that.
But marketing needs and TV demands mean that there has to be a faux tension-filled big reveal at SuperSport’s studios on Monday.
At least the players know where they stand‚ and have known‚ since last week.
The 31 players who walk out onto stage (because that’s how it will almost certainly be done on Monday) have known for weeks that they are going to Japan.
From the outside‚ we know there were 32 players in the final training camp this week and one of them has to drop out‚ so who is the unlucky last man out?
It depends on three positions and how Erasmus chooses to cover them – prop‚ loose-forward and fullback.
If Erasmus chooses five props then Lizo Gqoboka (who returned to the Blue Bulls to play Currie cup this week) should drop out with Vincent Koch going as fifth prop.
Given the need for two props on the bench in every game‚ Erasmus has to take at least five props‚ but six is a luxury too far.
Although there have been suggestions that Erasmus might only take three locks‚ that would again mean that all his lock stocks would have to be involved in every match. So a fourth lock is essential‚ meaning Lood de Jager survives the chop.
Loose-forward is more complex.
Siya Kolisi is fit and will captain the side while Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen pick themselves.
Francois Louw will travel to his third World Cup as the fourth back-rower while a fifth spot is a contest between Kwagga Smith and Rynhardt Elstadt.
Smith covers No 6 and 8‚ Elstadt is only a blindside and a possible emergency lock. But there is enough blindside cover with Vermeulen and Kolisi able to wear the No 7 jersey.
The fact that Smith was chosen for the away Tests against the All Blacks in Wellington and Argentina in Salta while Elstadt played the home Tests against Australia and Argentina suggests the former has the inside track.
Smith was selected for the two biggest Tests of the year and he also has experience of playing in Japan. So he gets the nod.
In the backline there are fewer conundrums with the five halfbacks picking themselves.
Erasmus never seriously entertained taking only two scrumhalves with wing Cheslin Kolbe as the third choice‚ despite some calls for that to happen.
Three centres and three wings are decided and Willie le Roux as fullback. The only question mark is over whether Erasmus takes both Warrick Gelant as second fullback and Frans Steyn as utility back.
Like Smith‚ Steyn was a feature in the key games of the year so far‚ so he will get the nod. And given Erasmus is only likely to take five props‚ there is room for Gelant on the plane to Tokyo too.
Probable Bok RWC squad:
Tendai Mtawarira‚ Steven Kitshoff‚ Trevor Nyakane‚ Frans Malherbe‚ Vincent Koch.
Malcolm Marx‚ Bongi Mbonambi‚ Schalk Brits.
Eben Etzebeth‚ Franco Mostert‚ RG Snyman‚ Lood de Jager.
Siya Kolisi‚ Duane Vermeulen‚ Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ Francois Louw‚ Kwagga Smith.
Faf de Klerk‚ Herschel Jantjies‚ Cobus Reinach.
Handre Pollard‚ Elton Jantjies.
Damian de Allende‚ Lukhanyo Am‚ Jesse Kriel.
Cheslin Kolbe‚ Sbu Nkosi‚ Makazole Mapimpi.
Willie le Roux‚ Warrick Gelant.