The headline above has been – with a few variations here and there – standard fare ever since the draw in Wellington almost two weeks ago. And it’s true, the Springboks could win The Rugby Championship (TRC) for the very first time on Saturday.
The other thing that has been repeated endlessly over the past fortnight is the statistic that no team has ever won TRC (or Tri-Nations, the predecessor tournament) AND the World Cup in the same year. That is also true but there is a first time for everything.
But to hear the Bok coaching staff speak during the week, TRC doesn’t matter. Rassie Erasmus is focused solely on preparing for the World Cup. Indeed, at a media conference in Buenos Aires, Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick and Lukhanyo Am said as much.
Am: “Winning the Championship would be a great opportunity for us, but we don’t want to focus too much on it because it is another Test that gives the squad the opportunity to build towards the big picture of the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
This echoed what Springboks forwards coach Matt Proudfoot had said earlier in the week: “We will be making some brave calls this week, as we did against Australia and New Zealand in the last three weeks...”Those “brave calls” became apparent on Wednesday night when the team for Salta was announced:15. Willie le Roux 14. Cheslin Kolbe 13. Lukhanyo Am 12. Damian de Allende 11. Makazole Mapimpi 10. Handré Pollard 9. Faf de Klerk 8. Duane Vermeulen 7. Pieter-Steph du Toit 6. Kwagga Smith 5. Franco Mostert 4. Eben Etzebeth 3. Trevor Nyakane 2. Bongi Mbonambi 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements:16. Malcolm Marx 17. Steven Kitshoff 18. Frans Malherbe 19. RG Snyman 20. Francois Louw 21. Herschel Jantjies 22. Frans Steyn 23. Jesse Kriel