Rugby Championship

Rassie explains Ross Cronje call-up

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Ross Cronje (Gallo)
Ross Cronje (Gallo)

Cape Town - Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus has explained his decision to select four scrumhalves for the upcoming Rugby Championship. 

There were few, if any, surprised in Erasmus' 35-man squad ahead of next weekend's tournament-opener against Argentina in Durban, but the fact that he is going in with so many No 9s is curious. 

Faf de Klerk, Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier all retain their places from the June Internationals against England, but Erasmus has also called up Lions halfback Ross Cronje for another crack at Springbok level. 

Cronje was Allister Coetzee's first-choice scrumhalf throughout 2017, but he was not in the mix when Erasmus took over and steered the side to a 2-1 series win over the English. 

Having guided the Lions to what was their third Super Rugby final in a row, though, Cronje has now caught the attention of the national coach. 

He certainly doesn't have the speed or flair of De Klerk, who is comfortably the Boks' first-choice, but he has a trusted box kick, makes his tackles and does the basics as well as anyone. 

"I think the three levels of No 9s we have in the mix is great, but you can't keep ignoring a No 9 who takes a team to Super Rugby finals," Erasmus said in explaining his decision to call up Cronje. 

"I've never coached and worked with Ross and I think it's just fair to have a look at him.

"Maybe he'll come into the mix or maybe in two or three weeks he will be released ... we just want to get some eyes on him."

While De Klerk is comfortably ahead at this stage of the race for the No 9 jersey at next year's World Cup in Japan, Erasmus believes that in Papier and Van Zyl he has a couple of quality back-up options.

"We know where we're going with Embrose. He is a guy that is learning something every minute from Faf," said Erasmus.

"Ivan is that in-between one where he is a solid guy to start with. He understands the game and is a very good communicator."

With Erasmus having spoken of his desire to rotate players during the Rugby Championship, there is every chance that all four scrumhalves will be given a crack over the course of the tournament. 

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