Johannesburg - Faf de Klerk’s absence from the Springboks this weekend gives coach Rassie Erasmus the chance to be bold in his selection at nine, although weather conditions will probably determine the selection more than a willingness to give game time.
It was rather a surprise that the Boks announced via twitter that De Klerk had been released to return to Sale Sharks for the weekend and would therefore not be available for the Boks’ match against Scotland at Murrayfield this coming Saturday, according to the SuperSport.com website.
“The Springboks have released @fafdeklerk to play for his club @SaleSharksRugby this weekend. He will not be considered for the test against Scotland at Murrayfield.#boksontour,” the tweet on the official Springbok account said.
De Klerk’s performance against France could have been better as his kicking was off key and contributed much to the territorial and possession dominance that the French had in the Test, while he was lucky not to be carded for a late hit on the French flyhalf Camille Lopez during the win on Saturday.
Saying that though, the Boks have built much of their game plan this season around De Klerk at nine, and his absence will bring some selection posers for Rassie Erasmus against a Scottish side that has increasingly become dangerous oppositio over the past few years.
Depending on the weather, which may see the Boks adopt a blunt approach and use the box kick more than their fans would like, the three remaining halfbacks on tour will be scrutinised, with the obvious questions being asked about Embrose Papier’s role for the Boks.
Ivan van Zyl got the nod against England and is in essence a better box kicker, but depending on the approach that the Boks adopt for the game, could well be partnering Handre Pollard again for the test while Louis Schreuder is an outside chance for the Test.
Either way, the Boks know after losing against England that the Scottish game is non-negotiable in terms of victory, and the decision about halfback will probably be taken first with a victory in mind before giving other players game time.
Papier sat on the bench for 80 minutes against the French, when it is correct to ask why he if he is chosen in the 23, he isn’t used very often.
The stats will tell you he has played six Tests for a total of 26 minutes, with only 17 of those being at scrumhalf.
And while Erasmus talks about bold decisions, there clearly is a plan for Papier, who at 21 is being slowly given a chance to get used to international rugby.
It isn’t a bad thing, as there is always a danger of blooding a guy too young and ruining him for the future, with Papier one of the stars that will hopefully be around Springbok rugby for a long time to come.
But selecting him on the bench and then not using him sends the wrong signal as well, and raises questions of other reasons for the selection that could end up distracting Erasmus when he needs it least.
Still, the decision is here and now and a favourable weather forecast for Edinburgh on Saturday means the Boks could use Papier’s nippy service if they want to play a more expansive game, or go more tactical and use Van Zyl’s more tactical approach in controlling the game.
Either way Erasmus has a tough decision or two to take ahead of the team selection, and talk of being “brave” means little unless you follow it through.