South Africa Director of Rugby and incumbent Head Coach Rassie Erasmus has targeted a Rugby Championship title as the first goal of the Springbok season ahead of the Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.
Speaking to the media in Pretoria, Erasmus discussed a number of things including the fitness of captain Siya Kolisi as well as potential captain options and plans for the upcoming Rugby Championship.
Kolisi to miss start of Rugby Championship
Kolisi picked up a knee injury likened to that of Warren Whiteley which is what has kept him on the sidelines during the Springbok training sessions and saw the inclusion of Bulls flank Marco van Staden.
The injury is being closely monitored and Kolisi will be given as much time as possible to prevent any further problems that Whiteley has suffered in trying to make a come back.
“We are just going a little more conservative with Siya, to make sure that he is ready for the World Cup which is the most important tournament of the year,” he said.
“After his scans on Friday, probably see what the return to play protocol would be, but I guess it would be training with us until we get on the plane to New Zealand but then he’ll probably stay behind, probably play one or two Currie Cup games, get him them back into test match rugby and that last Argentina game. Hopefully, then his tests are positive and then on the plane with us to Japan.”
He confirmed that all players in the current squad with the exception of Kolisi will be fit for the first match which includes Kwagga Smith who could be in line for his Springbok debut should he be involved in the RC.
Erasmus also mentioned that those that have not been called up such as Damian Willemse, Jan Serfontein and Whiteley are by no means out of selection but that they have taken the decision to rather let them continue their rehab with their unions. They can then be drafted back into the squad if they become available although he mentioned that the Loftus test in August would probably be the cut off date.
Who takes over in Kolisi’s place
Erasmus was then quizzed as to who would lead the Springboks in place of Kolisi where he mentioned a number of players which included Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Duane Vermeulen, Beast Mtawarira, Steven Kitshoff, Handre Pollard and Malcolm Marx.
The plan is to have two fairly different teams for the start of the RC where one will travel to New Zealand to face the All Blacks while the other will remain in Pretoria to play the Wallabies at Emirate Airline Park.
As such, Erasmus suggested that each team would then feature a different captain with multiple players still needing to prove their match sharpness and so is not limiting his options.
Rugby Championship key to building confidence
Erasmus says that the Springboks are targeting the Rugby Championship as the first stepping stone towards building the needed confidence to take into Japan in September.
Erasmus” You can’t fake confidence, you can’t just say you have confidence. Confidence comes with winning.”
— Stephen Pettitt (@StevePettittZA) July 3, 2019
The Springboks have never won the tournament since the inclusion of Argentina with their last Tri-Nations series win coming back in 2009.
The Springboks kick off their campaign on 20 July at Emirates Airline Park in a stiff test of what is going to be a whirlwind few weeks with Erasmus already saying there is 20 weeks until the Rugby World Cup final.
Rugby Championship fixtures: (All times SAST)
Saturday 20 July:
South Africa vs Australia (Johannesburg, 5:05pm)
Sunday 21 July:
Argentina vs New Zealand (Buenos Aires, 12:40am)
Saturday 27 July:
New Zealand vs South Africa (Wellington, 9:35am)
Australia vs Argentina (Brisbane, 12pm)
Saturday 10 August:
Australia vs New Zealand (Perth, 12pm)
Argentina vs South Africa (Salta, 9:40pm)
Featured Image: Forever Sports (Mark Pettitt)