SPRINGBOKS COACH Rassie Erasmus is happy with the balance of the Rugby World Cup squad he announced on Monday.
There were no real surprises as Erasmus named 17 forwards and 14 backline players in the squad to be skippered by Siya Kolisi.
The one omission from last week’s 32-man training camp in Bloemfontein was utility forward Rynhardt Elstadt.
There are five players with more than 50 caps – Eben Etzebeth, Willie le Roux, Francois Louw, Frans Steyn and Tendai Mtawarira – the latter being the most experienced played in the squad with 110 caps.
“I am very happy with the squad we have been able to select,” Erasmus said via a press statement released by SA Rugby.
“We have been developing this squad since the start of last season and in the 31 we have a good balance of established experience and some exciting youth.
“We set out with the goal of growing the depth of the squad and I am confident that any of this 31 can step into a playoff match at the Rugby World Cup and deliver an outstanding performance.”
Erasmus has given opportunities to 60 players in 18 Tests over the past two seasons and is content with the squad chosen.
All of the 31 – apart from skipper Siya Kolisi who only returned from injury nine days ago – appeared in the recently-completed Rugby Championship which the Boks won.
“We’ve been working towards this moment for the best part of two years and we’ve been lucky in achieving most of our goals this season,” said Erasmus.
“We’ve been able to give everyone in the squad some good game time as well as develop combinations with squad rotation and not lose momentum as we go to the World Cup.
“But the results and performances up to now will mean nothing once we are in Japan. It is a case of back to square one; putting in the work on the training field and in the planning sessions to build on what we have achieved.”
The Springboks open their Rugby World Cup campaign against the All Blacks in Yokohama (Saturday, September 21), before further Pool B matches against neighbours Namibia (September 28), Italy (October 4) and Canada (October 8).
It will be the first time the Boks have met Namibia since 2011 and the first meeting with Canada since 2000. The Springboks have beaten Italy 13 times in 14 meetings.
“We have planned and trained to be competitive at the Rugby World Cup and the work we have done and the performances to date this year have put us into a good space,” said Erasmus.
“Rugby World Cups are usually decided by small margins – a foot in touch here or a referee’s call there – but we have a very good squad that has grown into a tight unit over the past few months and we have definitely grown stronger together.
“I’m sure I speak for the squad when I say we can’t wait for the games to begin.”
The top two teams from the Springboks’ pool will face quarter-finals against the top two teams from Pool A featuring Ireland, Scotland, Japan, Russia and Samoa.
Prior to the World Cup, the South Africans will play a warm-up match against Japan on September 6 in Kumagaya.
They will be wary of the Japanese, having suffered to a shock 34-32 loss to them at the previous World Cup in England.
Springboks’ 31-man Rugby World Cup squad:
Schalk Brits (Bulls), Lood de Jager (Bulls), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Stormers), Eben Etzebeth (Stormers), Steven Kitshoff (Stormers), Vincent Koch (Saracens, England), Siya Kolisi (captain, Stormers), Francois Louw (Bath, England), Frans Malherbe (Stormers), Malcolm Marx (Lions), Bongi Mbonambi (Stormers), Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Franco Mostert (Gloucester, England), Trevor Nyakane (Bulls), Kwagga Smith (Lions), RG Snyman (Bulls), Duane Vermeulen (Bulls)
Lukhanyo Am (Sharks), Damian de Allende (Stormers), Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks, England), Warrick Gelant (Bulls), Elton Jantjies (Lions), Herschel Jantjies (Stormers), Cheslin Kolbe (Toulouse, France), Jesse Kriel (Bulls), Makazole Mapimpi (Sharks), S’bu Nkosi (Sharks), Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz, Japan), Handre Pollard (Bulls), Cobus Reinach (Northampton Saints, England), Frans Steyn (Montpellier, France).
Image (RWC Boks full line-up at the announcement held at SuperSport Offices, Randburg).