Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus reveals the ‘lifeline’ he will be throwing those players on the fringe of the national team.
As with any Bok selection, there are always those ‘borderline’ or ‘hard-luck’ cases.
Erasmus’ wider training squad, in camp in Pretoria at the moment, certain include a good number of players outside the squad that have question marks over their absence.
The coach explained that some of the omissions are related to injury – Ruan Botha (foot surgery), Dan du Preez (rib fracture), Warren Whiteley (knee surgery), Damian Willemse (knee surgery) and Jan Serfontein (ankle surgery).
Those players – like injured captain Siyamthanda Kolisi (knee) may be given time in the Currie Cup, once they recover, to make their case for inclusion in the World Cup squad.
However, there are other players who will be given a chance in the one-off Test against Argentina, after the completion of the Rugby Championship, to state their cases.
The Boks get their 2019 campaign underway against the Wallabies in Johannesburg on July 20, followed a week later by the highly-anticipated encounter with the All Blacks in Wellington.
They conclude their official campaign against Argentina in Salta two weeks later (Saturday, August 10).
The Boks and Pumas have a pre-World Cup once-off international in Pretoria a week later, August 17.
It is at Loftus Versfeld where the fringe players will find their lifeline.
Erasmus said he is fortunate to have an abundance of talent in the front row.
“For guys like Coenie [Oosthuizen] and Wilco [Louw], [their] selection was very close,” the coach told a media scrum in Pretoria – as the team stepped up preparations for the Rugby Championship.
“The guys that are in [the team] must perform in the next three games – against Australia, New Zealand and Argentina.”
He said he is “really keen” to give the fringe players a chance in the second game against Argentina.
“They are very close to being in the squad,” he said, adding that the selection of front rows and hookers were very tough.
“If you have four hookers in the squad, you rotate so many times and everybody won’t get enough repetitions in their position.”
Erasmus said locks were one of the easier positions to select.
However, loose forwards also provided him with a few intriguing posers.
“The Du Preez brothers [Jean-Luc and Dan] were tough luck. The one was injured and the other one didn’t play a lot. Even Jaco Coetzee from the Stormers and [Sikhumbuzo] Notshe was injured and didn’t play a lot of rugby.
“Jaco Coetzee was one of the young guys that played well. Cyle Brink was one of the guys that were injured and only played the last four or five games.”
Scrumhalf was another source of frustration for the coach.
“With Embrose [Papier] and Ivan [van Zyl], with [André] Warner doing well at the Bulls, it was difficult to say who was really the first-choice.
“Then again, Herschelle [Jantjies] and Cobus [Reinach] really put up their hands.
“They have to do it now,” Erasmus said, adding: “There is still that Argentina game where we can bring the other players back and give them another chance.
“At flyhalf, we have Elton [Jantjies] who has played in three Super Rugby finals. Handre Pollard is in good form. We also have Frans Steyn and Willie [le Roux] who can play at No.10.
“Centres are pretty much settled [and there are] lots of wings. Cornal [Hendricks] was bad luck, but [Makazole] Mapimpi, Sibusiso [Nkosi] and Aphiwe [Dyantyi], who do you leave out?
“The boys must perform now, because there is still one more chance in that last Argentina game.”
Erasmus also admitted no all 10 of the European-based players may make it to the World Cup.
“We are trying all our options, in case of injury.
“It is a challenge for those guys to try and make the squad.”
The coach said that apart from the injured players who need game time, the Currie Cup won’t be used as a ‘trial’ for players to force their way into the World Cup selection frame.
“I don’t think anyone new in the Currie Cup competition will now play themselves into the Springbok team,” Erasmus said.
“Some of the players that were injured and that has been on the fringe and close to selection. But I don’t think a guy that hasn’t been on the radar will play themselves into the team.”
He said the injured group was sent to their franchises so he could focus on working with fit players.
“We wouldn’t like a lot of the guys in the group that we have to rehab all the time,” Erasmus said.
“They can instead do that rehab with the franchises and the moment they are ready; we can draft them into the group.”
Erasmus said the one-off Test against Argentina in Pretoria on August 17 would be the cut-off point for players to prove their fitness.
The Boks play a warm-up match against Japan on September 6, before the start of the global showpiece.