Rugby World Cup 2019

Erasmus won't fix what isn't broken

Above: South Africa's scrum-half Faf de Klerk getting a feel of the ball during team training at the Arcs Urayasu Park in Chiba. Left: Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus is hoping to recall Cheslin Kolbe for the final after the wing missed their previou
Above: South Africa's scrum-half Faf de Klerk getting a feel of the ball during team training at the Arcs Urayasu Park in Chiba.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Above: South Africa's scrum-half Faf de Klerk getting a feel of the ball during team training at the Arcs Urayasu Park in Chiba. Left: Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus is hoping to recall Cheslin Kolbe for the final after the wing missed their previou
Above: Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus is hoping to recall Cheslin Kolbe for the final after the wing missed their previous game through injury.PHOTO: REUTERS

Springboks coach poised to stick to past line-ups, bar re-inclusion of 'X-factor' Kolbe

YOKOHAMA • Rassie Erasmus is likely to make one change for Saturday's World Cup final against England with wing Cheslin Kolbe, who missed the semi-final victory over Wales owing to an ankle injury, fit again.

The South Africa head coach yesterday drew looks of astonishment as he talked openly about his selection and tactics.

Asked if he was bluffing about Kolbe's inclusion in Yokohama, Erasmus told reporters that "you can expect pretty much the same from us on Saturday".

"Cheslin will come into the 23 otherwise it will probably be exactly the same," he said. "We will only have 160 minutes training this week and we have a six-day turnaround. There is not a lot you can change in that time, just one or two moves maybe.

"Our team selection will not be far off where it has been in previous games. We believe that is the way we can get the most out of our team."

While Eddie Jones' team believe Kolbe could give the Springboks an "X-factor", with full-back Elliot Daly expecting the team will "look to get him the ball as much as possible", Erasmus is expecting a tight encounter with England.

He said: "I have coached against England four times (wins tied at two apiece)... On the field, I expect a very well-coached, fit England team with a great tactical plan.

"The physicality they brought to New Zealand was the next level and it had been a long time since I had seen an England team turn up with that much physicality.

"They will be brimming with confidence.

"England put teams under pressure with their line speed and do not give much time and space which New Zealand found out. We do the same so we experience it at training sessions a lot."

WE'RE IN THE FINAL

We accept there are some things in our game we need to improve but we are in a position to win the World Cup. We accept criticism but we are happy with the position we are in.

RASSIE ERASMUS, South Africa's head coach, will make the most of his team's opportunity in the final.

On whether he was bothered by criticism that their semi-final against Wales was boring and bad for the game, he replied: "You have to understand where we are coming from - eighth in the world.

"We had certain challenges and one of them was to redeem ourselves and become a power again by getting into the top two.

"You have to put building blocks in place and follow certain routes to get short-term results.

"We accept there are some things in our game we need to improve but we are in a position to win the World Cup.

"We accept criticism but we are happy with the position we are in."

While Jones is involved in his fourth Cup and is close to marking his 20th anniversary as a Test coach, Erasmus, 47, is only 18 months into his project to remodel South Africa after several lean years and "some proper hidings".

However, the Boks are now on the verge of becoming the first team to win the Cup after losing a match in the pool stage.

Part of that reason has been their mean defence - they have conceded just four tries this tournament, the same number as England - while playing a game more, and Erasmus has a plan to "stop them scoring points while managing more ourselves".

Calling the final "a big test for us to see if we can take that last step", he said:

"The pressure is on and you can feel it, but you are also excited.

"Eddie has been in finals with Australia and South Africa (as their technical adviser), while this is my first World Cup.

"Winning the World Cup is the ultimate. I would like to build consistency in performance so we join the teams chasing the top spot in the world rankings.

"We can use this tournament as a springboard."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 30, 2019, with the headline 'Erasmus won't fix what isn't broken'. Print Edition | Subscribe