If you wanted proof that Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus believes in the old rugby saying that everything starts up front, his team for Saturday’s third and final Test against England at Newlands is proof.
The 46-year-old mentor, as expected, made various tweaks to his backline on Thursday, notably in midfield where Jesse Kriel and Andre Esterhuizen form a “new” centre combination – at least in the context of the series.
It also suggests that Erasmus is more than comfortable with the backline resources at his disposal and that there aren’t many changes that would disrupt or even weaken that department.
“No one is out of the team because of a lack of form, the changes are due to our long term planning for next year’s Rugby World Cup as we continue to build squad depth and capacity,” he said.
But it’s a different story among the forwards.
Except for Chiliboy Ralepelle replacing Bongi Mbonambi at hooker and his deputy, the veteran Schalk Brits, coming off the bench, Erasmus hasn’t made a single change to his pack.
Not only is it obvious that the Springboks’ ability the past two weeks to outmuscle England has been a key driver to their series success but perhaps also suggests he’s not quite comfortable with the depth he has.
It’s a reasonable argument to make, given that his first-choice lock pairing of Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager are still injured while regular captain (for now still) Warren Whiteley only returns to competitive action this weekend.
With that in mind, one could probably say that the first-choice forwards in this series represent the “capacity building” that Erasmus has talked about anyway.
Springboks: Warrick Gelant, S’bu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Andre Esterhuizen, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (c), Franco Mostert, RG Snyman, Frans Malherbe, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Beast Mtawarira. Bench: Schalk Brits, Steven Kitshoff, Thomas du Toit, Jean-Luc du Preez, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Embrose Papier, Handre Pollard, Willie le Roux.