Rassie Erasmus says the Springboks don’t currently have the capacity to split their squad resources for different Rugby Championship challenges. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
The Springboks begin their Rugby Championship campaign against Argentina on 18 August before heading to Mendoza for a ‘rematch’ against the Pumas the next week.
Following that trip, the Springboks will need to contend with an arduous journey in the other direction to take on the Wallabies in Brisbane on 8 September, before tackling the All Blacks in Wellington a week later.
By contrast, Australia and New Zealand will start off the competition with back-to-back battles across the Tasman Sea, while both teams will enjoy home-ground advantage in rounds three and four.
This imbalance in travel is all part of the nature of the competition, and while there may have been a brief temptation for the Springboks to consider ‘preserving’ some first-choice players for the trip to Australasia, it doesn’t look likely to happen.
‘We aren’t in such a privileged position where we can split up our squad into a so-called A and B side,’ Erasmus explained at a press conference in Stellenbosch on Monday. ‘Currently, we have quite a few injuries in key positions, and if you look at the number of caps in the squad, it would be too much of a risk to do that.
‘However, I am aware of the fact that when you play Argentina home and away, and then fly to Australia or New Zealand, it’s a lot of travel to contend with, particularly when coming up against the best teams in the world, who are sitting waiting for you as fresh as a daisy.
‘We do want to be creative in managing our players’ workload, and while it would have been ideal to maybe send a few extra guys straight to New Zealand [before the others], I don’t think we have that luxury at the moment.’
It’s the sort of talking point that isn’t all that dissimilar to the selection conundrum faced by some Super Rugby coaches. The Lions, for example, have at times taken a ‘second-string’ team to Argentina to face the Jaguares, rather than put the whole squad through the gruelling travel.
The Springboks do at least have the relative benefit of a two-week break between facing Argentina in Buenos Aires and their third round clash against Australia.
Erasmus reiterated that the Boks’ goals remained three-fold as they headed into a Rugby Championship campaign where they hope to contend for the title.
‘We are consistently aiming for three things: winning, transforming and to build depth and experience in the squad. Winning is always the primary objective, but we also have a long-term goal of building towards the World Cup.’
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