South Africa boss Rassie Erasmus expects wizard winger Cheslin Kolbe to be back in full training by Monday, adding that he is nowhere near contemplating calling up a fourth scrum-half to replace the injured Herschel Jantjies.
“Cheslin has that ankle injury that he picked up against Italy, which meant he wasn’t available for the last game. He is still nursing that but we are hopeful that he will be training fully on Monday,” explained Erasmus. “There’s a very good chance that he will be available – I would say 80 to 90 per cent.
“Herschel did a little light hamstring strain but he finished the (Canada) game. At this stage, it is precautionary but it’s also one of those where we are a little bit nervous. We only have three scrum-halves here so we want to make sure that he rather has more recovery time. So, hopefully on Monday he is also ready to go.
“Herschel won’t go home – it’s definitely not that bad an injury. It’s not even a grade one. Cheslin would have been a nice option. But we have got good scrum-halves, and I know Ruan Pienaar is currently playing very well back home.
“The difficult thing for the guys who were in our mix in South Africa is that there is no Currie Cup rugby now, whereas the PRO14 guys are actually playing now. The guys abroad are playing now – that’s why it was so easy to get Damian Willemse in, as he was playing for Saracens.
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“Thomas du Toit was training with Toulouse, so they were in competition. But we are really far from going to a fourth-choice scrum-half at this stage.”
The Springboks played their last pool match versus the Canadians on Tuesday, giving them a 12-break before their October 20 quarter-final versus the Pool A winner in Tokyo. It’s a lengthy lay-off Erasmus has every confidence his squad will put to good use.
“We’ve been in this situation a couple of times in the last 18 months, like after the New Zealand game in Wellington, before going to Argentina. We stayed over in Wellington before we flew to Salta (Argentina) – so we assimilated this, as we knew that something like this can happen.
“Next week, from Tuesday, we will have a normal week, once we know who our opponents are. They had two days to enjoy themselves and Japan. The butterflies and nerves will set in once we know who our opponents are. The good thing was to switch off. You could see in the training session, in the first five to 10 minutes, they were still switched off a bit.
'Never once in its 32-year history has a fixture been cancelled and it has opened a Pandora’s Box of issues that may yet come back to bite the organisers.'
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 10, 2019
“I don’t think you can get much fitter, faster, quicker or tougher physically in the next three weeks. Certainly, your conditioning can drop standards if you slack off a little bit. A lot of it, I believe, is mental – it’s upstairs. My previous experience in 1999, when I played, and 2011, when I coached, when we lost those games, I thought it was all mental – because it wasn’t a physical thing.
“It’s a lot to do with (asking) ‘how do you handle the pressure? What is pressure?’ And ‘how can you transfer the pressure from your team on to them?’ And there, a lot of things play a role. If you play Japan, you’ve got a lot of pressure because it’s a home crowd. Those kinds of things we are talking about, and it will play a massive role.”
Now that they are entering the knockout stages, will Erasmus change tactics in any way from previous World Cups with the Boks? “Tactically, I can only speak out of previous World Cups that I’ve seen… in 1995, it was totally different rugby, and it was (decided by a) drop goal.
“In 1999, a drop goal from (Stephen) Larkham. We had a red card from a previous game that cost us, so when we were behind on the scoreboard in the rain in the semi-final. We couldn’t actually draw the game because we would have lost after extra time because of the red card.
“So, discipline will be really important in the next three games. We haven’t had any cards, which is great for us. In 2011, we struggled with (David) Pocock at the breakdown and we couldn’t get that across to the referee – we didn’t have that ability on the field to change that specific situation.
“We have spoken a lot about role-playing with the things we are struggling with on the field, which we feel is maybe not the correct thing happening on the field. We are putting players in specific situations to try to overcome those things and, so far, it’s working.
“It definitely didn’t work in the New Zealand game but we took our lessons out of that one and, so far, it’s been going better.”
WATCH: Conor O’Shea on how the cancellation versus New Zealand has hit Italy hard
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