He’s raised Wallaby eyebrows by relegating some of South Africa’s biggest names to the bench for their clash in Brisbane on Saturday.
But Springboks coach Rassie Erasmus insists its nothing personal, jumping to the defence of under-pressure counterpart Michael Cheika while explaining next year’s World Cup in Japan was his side’s true focus.
Erasmus, in his first season as national coach, surprised his counterpart by making six changes to the side that lost 32-19 to Argentina last month.
Chief among them is the benching of world-class hooker Malcolm Marx and 103-Test prop Tendai Mtawarira for the Rugby Championship Test at Suncorp Stadium, a move that’s caught the ns off guard.
“I hope we haven’t become a team where the opposition can rest all their best players,” Cheika said.
“I was a bit surprised to see that to be honest, but we will be doing our best no matter who we are playing against.”
Erasmus admitted he would’ve made even more changes if they had won in Argentina, but not because he saw as easy prey.
“There’s very few of these guys, including Malcolm, that got a surprise they weren’t in the team,” he said.
“We’ve only had six Tests together, we’ve got 12 to go before the World Cup and if we want to build a squad and be competitive there, guys will have to adapt.”
The former Bok captain forecast an intense battle against a side desperate to perform for their coach after back-to-back Bledisloe Cup humblings.
The losses dropped Cheika’s winning percentage to 50 per cent after 50 Tests in charge, but any calls for his axing are laughable according to Erasmus.
“I remember when Michael took over, he was coach of the year and (England coach) Eddie Jones won 24 matches in a row, now he’s lost a few (and he’s under pressure),” Erasmus said.
“That’s the nature of the game, but Michael’s got a very level head on him, he’s a sharp coach, his heart is in the right place and he really wants to get n rugby right.
“To judge a team (on their performances against) the All Blacks is harsh, and against Ireland all those Test matches could’ve gone any way.”
SPRINGBOKS: Willie le Roux, Makazole Mapimpi, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Warren Whiteley, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (capt), Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff. Res: Malcolm Marx, Tendai Mtawarira, Wilco Louw, RG Snyman, Francois Louw, Embrose Papier, Handre Pollard, Cheslin Kolbe.