Following Saturday’s thrilling 42-39 victory over England, Rassie Erasmus has emphasised the need for his youthful Boks to continue to get test match experience in working towards the greater goal of the 2019 World Cup.
The first test of the South Africa vs England series saw the Boks blood three debutants in RG Snyman, Aphiwe Dyantyi and S’bu Nkosi. The run on XV also included seven players with less than 20 Caps (outside of the debutants) in Jean Luc Du Preez, Faf De Klerk, Franco Mostert, Bongi Mbonambi, Wilco Louw and Lukhanyo Am, who had only one cap previously.
While Am and the two wingers were disjointed defensively in the first 20 minutes, they settled and gained some order throughout the match and went on to produce attacking performances testament to their selection. Dyantyi’s display was reminiscent of a young Bryan Habana, running brilliant attacking lines, cutting in from the wing a lot and being a force in the kick and chase. He also managed to cross for a try on Debut. Nkosi was equally strong on the right, fronting physically to strong English defence and scoring two tries himself, at pivotal moments in the game.
Other Debutant RG Snyamn showed that he belonged at test level, and while Eben Etzebeth and Lood De Jager are still out, the time is right for Snyman to gain experience and further add to South Africa’s experienced depth at lock.
Faf De Klerk performed like a player with more than 20 caps and the Boks, in general, were very good. Their comeback from 24-0 down, showcasing class attack while managing to not sacrifice defence, and their composure for much of the second half was commendable for a side so young. Ultimately their victory speaks for itself.
Erasmus has said that he is happy to take some chances going forward if it helps the Boks become a better team. “There are going to be challenges in the next few months, and we’re going to have to make brave calls,” said Erasmus.
“We will lose some matches, but we have to get guys capped at Test level … put them under pressure. They must experience what Test pressure is like … our wings, Thomas du Toit, Louw, Akker (van der Merwe); we must put these guys in these situations.
The Boks on Saturday, while vastly inexperienced, played with an energy and structure that has been lacking in South African rugby for a while. A youthful injection was need at this juncture and while more experienced players in Whiteley, Etzebeth, De Jager and Marx will all still return, they are young themselves. This is an exciting time in South African rugby, as there is a wealth of young talent that can be nurtured into young, talented and experienced by the time the Boks reach the 2019 World Cup.
Erasmus’ thinking is right in saying “We must keep on being brave. Even if we lost this game, I’d pick the guys again … we can’t go to the World Cup with 14 or 15 guys who we trust; we want a squad of 31 who we can trust.”
So far his actions have followed his words. Hopefully the rest of the series and year is as enthralling as the first test.