Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Erasmus has his long-term Bok hat on as he builds towards 2027

With a vast amount of experience in the match 23, it is the perfect environment for the four new players to thrive.

The Springboks will see four new debutants take to the field at various stages in their opening international of the season against Wales at Twickenham on Saturday, with coach Rassie Erasmus starting to build towards the 2027 World Cup in Australia.

Despite the Boks missing their European-based players, due to the Test falling outside of the international window, they have still named an extremely experienced squad.

Sixteen players in the match 23 are World Cup winners, with 10 of them starting, while they have a combined 864 caps in the 23-man squad that will be taking on the Welsh.

Perfect environment

It is thus the perfect environment for the four new players – wing Edwill van der Merwe and flyhalf Jordan Hendrikse, who will both be starting, and utility back Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and utility forward Ben-Jason Dixon, who will both be on the bench – to thrive.

“I will always have a long-term hat on while also trying to win the current games. For this week, the Bulls were not available (due to their appearance in the United Rugby Championship final on Saturday). The Stormers were only able to train with us from late last week,” explained Erasmus.

“Those Stormers players we have selected, like Evan Roos, are guys who have played for us before, so that was easy. He knows the systems. Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu was also part of an SA A tour before he got injured. He spent a lot of time on that trip training with the Springboks.

“Jordan has been on our radar and he has trained with us for two weeks, and the same with Edwill. BJ (Dixon) is a guy we have been looking at and has impressed us in alignment camps. He was with us for two or three weeks in Cape Town.”

Searching for a new Du Toit

Erasmus continued: “We are looking for a guy like Pieter-Steph (Du Toit), someone who is good in the lineouts and can also give us momentum there and is also good at stopping opposition momentum. We are putting these guys into the mix with experienced guys around them.

“In doing that we are not doing what maybe we were forced to do in the past by going in with seven or eight new guys. That would be throwing them to the wolves. The new guys don’t have to worry about leading, they just need to go out and play their game and deliver what got them selected.”

Staying relevant

With the fast-changing pace of the international rugby landscape, Erasmus also admits that it is important for the Boks to stay relevant and keep moving forward from their recent success.

“Things change so quickly. Look where we were in 2018 (when I took over). We won the World Cup just over a year later,” said Erasmus.

“Look at where Italy were a short while ago, and look where they are now. England were written off last year and then they went on a five-game winning streak before they lost to us in the World Cup semifinal.

“Our first target on Saturday is to make sure our base is still there. We need to know that we can still do what we do well, what made us the World Cup champions. But then we want to build on that. By 2027 we want to be a much better team.”

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Rassie Erasmus Springboks (Bokke/Boks)

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