Despite a highly-encouraging first-half display by the SA A team before they understandably depleted their energy reserves, Springbok director of rugby Rassie Erasmus said he remains concerned about how he is going to manage his squad ahead of the first Test against the British and Irish Lions on July 24.
The SA A team raced into a 17-3 lead in the first half against the Lions at Cape Town Stadium on Wednesday night, but the second half saw them desperately clinging on in defence, eventually securing a 17-13 win.
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Getting the match fitness up and dealing with the numerous Covid cases within the squad will continue to require a delicate juggling act by Erasmus and head coach Jacques Nienaber, who is now out of quarantine and will retake the on-field reins.
“The guys put their hands up and showed their guts, and we do have a lot of players to come back into the mix. But there are guys I’m worried about – Malherbe, Mbonambi, De Jager, Snyman, Kolisi, Vermeulen, Pollard, Mapimpi and Frans Steyn. It’s about how we reintegrate those Covid cases because they are coming back in dribs and drabs as they get released from quarantine,” said Erasmus.
“So I’m 70-80% happy with the squad, but the other 20-30% are going to need really good management.
“We have two options to play on Saturday: the Bulls have gone into quarantine for us as back-up, but if there are cases in the Stormers camp then it would be safest for us to play the Lions again.
“If we don’t play them again, it definitely won’t be because they are afraid, it will because of their plans for the tour. It won’t be because we’re more physical than them,” Erasmus chirped.
As heartening as the SA A team’s display was, since it was basically a shadow Test team if all the players Erasmus mentioned don’t make it back for the first Test, the World Cup winning coach knows that courage and determination will only win the silverware if they are reflected on the scoreboard.
“We don’t want to run away with our emotions. We knew we would run out of steam and that made the match tighter in the end, but we played with a lot of heart,” Erasmus said. “I’m proud of that, but we won’t win the series on that alone. There are a lot of technical and tactical things we need to get right.”