DURBAN – The Springboks tackle Canada in their final Pool B match at the Rugby World Cup at 12.15pm today. Mike Greenaway looks at five boxes coach Rassie Erasmus will want ticked ahead of the quarter-finals.
De Allende at No 13
The one area the Boks do not have depth is at outside centre, following the tournament-ending injury suffered by Jesse Kriel in the match against the All Blacks. Erasmus is looking at Damian de Allende as an option in this difficult position because he has depth at No 12. Frans Steyn can slot in there with ease as well as one of the flyhalves, Elton Jantjies and Handre Pollard, but possibly only De Allende can do a job at No 13. So this match is about the coach planning for the emergency that would arise if something happens to Lukhanyo Am.
Elton needs to hit form
A slight worry for Erasmus has been the form of his two flyhalves. Pollard was curiously out of touch against the All Blacks considering how well he played for the Boks prior to the World Cup but he was much better against Italy, apart from his goal-kicking. Jantjies, in turn was relatively poor against Namibia, making a number of elementary errors. The Boks need Jantjies to come to the party today. Erasmus needs reassurance that his back-up flyhalf is in decent form should Pollard get injured.
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After three rounds of the World Cup the Boks have already said goodbye to Trevor Nyakane and Kriel, the injury to the latter stretching depth at outside centre. Fortunately the Boks have rich blessings at prop to cover for the loss of Nyakane. It will do the Boks’ chances of success in the knockout rounds a whole lot of good if their depth is preserved after today’s match. It is the Canadians’ last match of the tournament and they will be after a rousing performance, and that will mean putting their bodies on the line … and also those of the Boks.
After the loss to the All Blacks, the Boks have been building nicely, the quality of the opposition notwithstanding. Against Namibia, the Boks’ 57 points was the first “50” of the World Cup, and the Italians were seen off in style. Italy could not live with the physicality and power play of the Boks in the opening 15 minutes. It was a pleasure to behold… The dirt-trackers today must pick up where the “A” team left off and deliver a commanding performance that will continue the momentum.
Defence in the quarter-finals is going to be critical. The matches obviously get tighter as the tournament wears on and the Boks need to maintain intensity on defence today. The tackling was mostly very good against the All Blacks, apart from a 10-minute period where concentration was lost and tackles missed, resulting in two New Zealand tries. Namibia were held to just a penalty, as were Italy. The same must happen today – the Canadians must be held scoreless. Maintaining momentum on defence is just as important as doing the same on attack.
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