If you’ve followed the Springboks at this year’s World Cup, you won’t be at all surprised by the team that coach Rassie Erasmus has picked to face Japan in the quarter-finals in Tokyo on Sunday (12.15pm SA time kick-off).
It is the Bok boss’s first-choice side and the same 23 that featured in the match against Italy almost two weeks ago – the match the Boks had to win to get them into the last eight.
It is also very similar to the team that played against the All Blacks in match one.
Sure, there were individuals who stood out in the Boks’ last pool match against Canada and many observers felt the likes of RG Snyman, Schalk Brits, Elton Jantjies, Sbu Nkosi and Cobus Reinach should be considered for this week’s showdown.
How, though, was Erasmus supposed to properly assess them against a team like Canada?
Earlier, these men had also performed well against Namibia, but there is a big difference between playing against New Zealand and Italy and Tier Two sides.
Erasmus has also always been conservative with his selections and he made it pretty clear a long time ago who he was going to back in his first-choice team.
And let’s be frank, the 23 he has picked to take on Japan is good enough to beat the hosts, and beat them well.
Sure, there are players who haven’t been in great form, like Willie le Roux, Handré Pollard, Siya Kolisi and replacement hooker Malcolm Marx, but they are all integral members of this Bok team who could, and should, hit form any day now.
Again, the Bok team is built around a solid core of forwards, and that includes the men sitting on the bench.
There won’t be many frills in the Bok performance in Tokyo this weekend; rather it’s going to be a big Bok pack making sure they win their set-pieces, put pressure on the Japanese in their set-pieces, and then keep the home team from playing their quick, phase-based game.
There’s going to be very little pretty rugby played by the Boks, but it’s a style and plan that should prove too much for the Japanese.
I am pleased that Erasmus has backed hooker Bongi Mbonambi ahead of Marx; he is deserving of his starting spot – as is Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira, who’s experience and hunger to win in his last World Cup tournament will drive him to greater heights.
Consistently solid lock Lood de Jager has also been rewarded and backed after performing well following his injury concerns earlier this year, and what a pleasure to be able to send on Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Snyman, Franco Mostert and Francois Louw later on in the fixture.
Again, the only concern about the make-up of the 23 is that there are only two back-line replacements on the bench.
In all, it’s a Bok team with few weaknesses.
If every player performs up to standard and executes the way they’re supposed to, they should come out on top after 80 minutes.
Man for man, this Springbok team trumps the Japanese Brave Blossoms.