Why Rassie is still experimenting with ‘new’ flankers in a World Cup year

Rynhardt Elstadt during the South African national men's rugby team training session at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on July 1, 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

Rynhardt Elstadt during the South African national men's rugby team training session at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on July 1, 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

Cutting it fine perhaps? Not when you pick these guys, says assistant Matt Proudfoot…

When World Cup years roll along, there’s an understandable ideal that there shouldn’t be any room for experimentation anymore.

After all, four years of planning and mixing and matching should’ve culminated in a clear picture of what the best team going into the tournament looks like.

However, that’s not the case with Rassie Erasmus’ Springboks, who are still keen to test out a few options.

VIDEO: Springboks forwards coach Matt Proudfoot on how the team is coping with Siya Kolisi's absence.

Posted by The Citizen Sport on Monday, 15 July 2019

Yet as his assistant Matt Proudfoot notes, these “new” players don’t necessarily represent a risk.

“These are guys that are in-form,” he said on Monday, ahead of this weekend’s Rugby Championship opener against Australia at Ellis Park.

“I feel Rassie has been very prudent in his selection, bringing in players that can really add value and an extra dimension to this team.”

Loose trio is one of the areas where Erasmus is particularly banking on something different.

Here’s Proudfoot’s take on three of them.

RYNHARDT ELSTADT

He’s done incredibly well for (French giants) Toulouse. I thought his game in the (Top 14) final was really superb. I’ve known him a long time, he’s actually a bit of an old face. We know what he’s capable of doing, a very versatile player with a high work rate.

He’s a good addition to our squad. He understands the rugby we’re trying to play and he’s in good form. If you talk to the French guys, they unanimously agree that he’s been one of the standouts. 

MARCELL COETZEE

Marcell Coetzee during the South African national men’s rugby team training session at Loftus Versfeld Stadium on July 1, 2019 in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images)

When you look at a guy like Marcell, you realise that he’s quite experienced (he’s played 29 Tests to date). He took a long time to get over his troublesome knee injuries and we’ve always wanted him in the mix, but couldn’t pick him because of that. It’s wonderful that he’s fit and playing excellent rugby. He’s been superb for (Ireland’s) Ulster.

KWAGGA SMITH

Albertus “Kwagga”Smith of the Springboks during the South African national mens rugby team training session and fan engagement at St Stithians School on June 07, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

Let’s be honest, he had an outstanding campaign with the Lions. You could see in his performances that he set himself an objective to be in this squad and through sheer weight of performances played himself into this situation. He’s a leader in his environment, he even captained his franchise with distinction. 

He was part of our group last year, so he only really need a refresher course so to speak. He’s actually very experienced and has played at the highest level, even if it’s for the Sevens. He knows a lot about the pressures of international rugby, even if it’s a different format. 

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