By Nick Said
KOBE (Reuters) – South Africa face one final hurdle in their bid for a Rugby World Cup quarter-final place but seem certain to brush aside the challenge of minnows Canada when the teams meet in a Pool B encounter at the Kobe Stadium on Tuesday.
The Springboks need a bonus-point win to make sure of their place in the knockout stages, though a victory of any kind would do the trick unless Italy produce the shock of the tournament and down New Zealand in their final pool match on Saturday.
Bok coach Rassie Erasmus, however, has warned that any players failing to produce the required intensity during the game against Canada will quickly find themselves on the sidelines.
Erasmus has continued his rotation policy and made 13 changes from the side that overwhelmed Italy 49-3 in Fukuroi City on Friday, though he has kept captain Siya Kolisi in the starting XV as the flanker continues his return to full match sharpness after a serious knee injury.
“He played a full 80 minutes (against Italy) and was wonderful. I think it was his best game since he has been back from injury,” Erasmus told reporters in Kobe on Sunday.
“The plan was always just to get him to the World Cup, to make sure the knee holds up.
“After that, we wanted to get him to play a full 80 minutes. He can do that now and his form is back to where it was, so to take him off the pitch would be like starting the process all over again. The more game-time he gets the better.”
Erasmus said he would demand the same commitment and intensity that his side showed against the Italians.
“The team’s make-up is a bit different but we expect the same intensity in all four of our next games (if they make the final). One thing that will be vital going into the knockout stages is intensity and big moments.
“If these players don’t step up then they will fail to stay in the team. They know that and it will be one of the challenges for them.”
New Zealand head Pool B with 14 points from three games, with South Africa and Italy both on 10. Canada and Namibia have yet to claim a point.
Damian Willemse will start at full-back after flying in as an injury replacement for Jesse Kriel, while Elton Jantjies gets another run at fly-half after his poor showing in the 57-3 win over Namibia.
Canada have made six changes from the side that lost 63-0 to New Zealand last time out, with an all-new front-row in props Hubert Buydens and Jake Ilnicki either side of hooker Andrew Quattrin, and the inclusion of lock Kyle Baillie, scrum-half Phil Mack and full-back Andrew Coe.
Wing DTH van der Merwe will make a Canadian record 15th World Cup appearance when he lines up against his native country.
“We are hugely respectful of the South African team. They and the All Blacks are probably the two best sides at the tournament,” Canada assistant coach Huw Wiltshire said.
“Two things you can’t defend against in rugby are speed and power, and both those countries have got it across their teams, across the park and across their whole squads.”
The Boks and Canada have met twice before, including at the 1995 World Cup in what later became famously known as the ‘Battle of Boet Erasmus’.
Canadians Gareth Rees and Rod Snow, as well as South African James Dalton, were sent-off after a mass brawl as the Boks won 20-0 on their way to lifting the trophy.
(Reporting By Nick Said; editing by Tony Lawrence)