Nyakane is Erasmus’ only worry ahead of opener

2019-09-10 22:27

In the build-up to the Springboks’ final warm-up game, which they will play against Japan, before the Rugby World Cup, Bok coach Rassie Erasmus wants a few things: To prevent a movie sequel by the hosts, give match-starved skipper Siya Kolisi another gallop and to avoid injuries to his players.

Judging by the 41-7 result in his side’s favour, Japan won’t be commissioning another movie to mark their epic upset at the previous World Cup in Brighton, where they won the only other meeting between the two teams.

Kolisi played for three-quarters of the game before he was replaced by Francois Louw – who finished the game in the sin bin after being yellow-carded for a team offence in the 71st minute – which would have prompted Erasmus to say the game “went pretty much as we wanted it to”.

What he would not have wanted was tight head prop Trevor Nyakane limping off not 10 minutes after coming on as a replacement for Frans Malherbe.

Unofficial word is that Nyakane has suffered a bump to the knee, the prognosis being that he should be ready by September 21, when the Boks are due to play New Zealand in their opening game of the tournament.

The concern over Nyakane would have been the only one for Erasmus, who witnessed his team dismantle a deceptively dangerous Japan with a workmanlike performance that produced a six tries to one victory.

The Bok forwards bossed the set phases and the collisions, also stifling the hosts’ need for quick ball for their attacking game to fire at the breakdown. With the Boks’ stated intent to play a structured game, halfbacks Faf de Klerk and Handré Pollard’s kicking game proved too educated for Jamie Joseph’s men.

Not only were they constantly pinned in their half, their failure to deal with the high ball resulted in four of the Bok tries. That wingers Makazole Mapimpi and Cheslin Kolbe scored five of the tries would have made Erasmus that much happier as it pointed to an attacking game that’s probably a little better than it gets credit for.

With the competition heating up on the right wing between Kolbe and Sbu Nkosi, Mapimpi has often been spoken of as the potential sacrificial lamb to enable the Boks to field both, but his hat-trick would have been a resounding response to his doubters.

But the area that would have made the Bok coach the happiest would have been defence. Led by ridiculous shifts put in by 50 test cap flank Pieter-Steph du Toit, lock Franco Mostert and centre Damian de Allende, the Boks’ overeager rush defence gave Japan opportunities out wide, but the scramble defence was in the kind of workaholic mode that made life a nightmare for ball carriers.

In fact, it is instructive that Japan’s only try came from a Bok mistake, when replacement fly half Frans Steyn forced a pass in contact in attack.

If Erasmus has decisions to make ahead of the All Blacks’ game, they will be whether Nyakane starts ahead of Malherbe despite having little time off the bench, and whether he’s confident having Steyn as his fly half cover.

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November 10 2019