Rynhardt Elstadt trains in Cape Town’s rain. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images)
- Rassie Erasmus believes a lack of match fitness can’t be used as an excuse when the Springboks commence their Test series against the British & Irish Lions next week.
- The national director of rugby’s view is based on Argentina’s sterling win over the All Blacks last year despite not playing a single competitive match beforehand.
- But the Boks will need to pace themselves as the Pumas also struggled thereafter after pouring most of their energy into that victory.
Despite admitting he’d “beg” for a second South Africa ‘A’ fixture against the British & Irish Lions to assist in the Springboks’ match readiness, Rassie Erasmus believes the national team can’t use a lack of match fitness as an excuse for the upcoming Test series.
The national director of rugby’s view is largely based on Argentina’s example last year, when they memorably beat the All Blacks in the Rugby Championship without playing any competitive match beforehand.
Game-time has become a major headache for Springbok management after last week’s scheduled second Test against Georgia had to be cancelled after a rash of Covid-19 cases in both camps.
As a result, Wednesday night’s clash between SA ‘A’ and the Lions has taken on added significance as a shadow Bok team has essentially been assembled.
“Some people have showed us before, and I’m talking specifically Argentina now, (that lack of game-time need not be a problem,” said Erasmus.
“They went over there and beat the All Blacks without playing a competitive game. Lack of match fitness can never be an excuse.
“We really trying to ramp up the intensity in training, but you can only gain match intensity by playing matches. We couldn’t ramp up everything in the last 10 days because of the isolation protocols. Sitting in a room is tough.”
As it turns out, the Springboks will only have two full training sessions before Wednesday’s encounter in the Cape Town Stadium.
However, that might not be a bad thing.
Because, despite that fact being conveniently overlooked by numerous parties previously, the Pumas poured so much energy into their heroic effort in Sydney that they didn’t win any game afterwards.
Pacing themselves will thus be key for the Boks.
“The Agrentinians struggled afterwards and didn’t win anything despite drawing twice,” said Erasmus.
“But they showed guts and proved that playing for your country is a great motivator.”
The Boks will have to channel such energy consistently over the next few weeks.
“It helps a lot if one pulls in the same direction, working towards the same goal,” said Erasmus.
“We have some of the management staff who are quite sick and we’ve all had people close to us who’ve suffered because of Covid-19. Sometimes, that adversity must carry you a bit too.”
South Africa ‘A’
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Sbu Nkosi, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Marco van Staden, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Joseph Dweba, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Substitutes (from): 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20 Rynhardt Elstadt, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Jesse Kriel, 23 Damian Willemse, 24 Kwagga Smith, 25 Elton Jantjies
British & Irish Lions
15 Anthony Watson (England), 14 Louis Rees-Zammit (Wales), 13 Chris Harris (Scotland), 12 Bundee Aki (Ireland), 11 Josh Adams (Wales), 10 Dan Biggar (Wales), 9 Conor Murray (captain, Ireland), 8 Taulupe Faletau (Wales), 7 Tom Curry (England), 6 Josh Navidi (Wales), 5 Iain Henderson (Ireland), 4 Maro Itoje (England), 3 Kyle Sinckler (England), 2 Ken Owens (Wales), 1 Wyn Jones (Wales)