South Africa: Eben, Pieter-Steph to Be Reunited As Bok Locks?

With Eben Etzebeth , Francois Louw and Warren Whiteley all available for selection once more, the major talking point in the build-up to Saturday's Rugby Championship opener against Argentina in Durban has centred around numbers 4-8 in the Springbok pack.

Duane Vermeulen's absence further complicates the conundrum, but listening to coach Rassie Erasmus speak in Umhlanga on Monday, things are beginning to take shape.

Erasmus confirmed that Etzebeth will start, playing his first competitive rugby match since December last year after recovering from a serious and lengthy shoulder injury.

Etzebeth will wear the No 4 jersey, with Erasmus saying that he would rather avoid a situation where the 26-year-old must play most of the game off the bench if injury strikes early in the match.

That selection would see RG Snyman , so impressive for the Boks in their June series win over England, lose his place.

Erasmus also confirmed that Pieter-Steph du Toit , who shone in the No 7 jersey against England, is set for a move back to the second row.

While Du Toit remains a serious option at blindside flank, that position will now go to Bok captain Siya Kolisi .

Instead, Du Toit will share the No 5 lock duties with Franco Mostert .

While there is very little separating the players - both are superb lineout options and callers with massive engines - the only thing working in Du Toit's favour for Saturday is the fact that Erasmus has spoken of the need to manage his Lions players carefully following their run to the Super Rugby final this season.

It means that the Stormers second row pairing of Etzebeth and Du Toit could be reunited in Durban.

"As long as Pieter-Steph can still play flank and do the lineout calling for us, it's a massive bargain," Erasmus explained.

"The moment we start moving him to No 4 lock where he does more the Bakkies Botha work, then we're being stupid because he's so mobile. Franco and Pieter-Steph will probably be the No 5 locks that we focus on until Lood (De Jager) is fit."

While Kolisi is confirmed to start at blindside, it is almost certain that Whiteley will wear the No 8 jersey in place of the absent Vermeulen.

"We will have to rejig the loose forward combination ... we can't just plug Warren in there and think he's going to do the same job as Duane," Erasmus said.

"There are also a lot of things that Warren can do that Duane maybe can't, so what you sometimes lose in a certain aspect you gain in others. I'm pretty sure that we will nullify the attributes in terms of losses."

The Kolisi move to the blindside will likely open the door for a 58th Test cap for Louw, with Erasmus saying on Monday that he would look to use the 33-year-old as much as possible for the first four matches of the Championship.

The other options in the loose trio are newcomers Marco van Staden and Cyle Brink , and while Erasmus is keen on getting them involved as soon as possible, he will not throw them into the deep end on Saturday.

"I would like to see Marco playing. I've said it before, in the England series if he didn't get injured he would have started as open-sider," said Erasmus.

"I've been watching Cyle since I got the job and monitoring his work rate on attack and defence. He's a bit of a mixed bag ... not an open-side or a blind-side. He's big, strong and he steals and carries well.

"I'm going to try see both of them in a Springbok jersey in the next two games."

Erasmus will name his side on Thursday.

Source: Sport24

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