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How will the Boks handle spirited neighbours Namibia?

South Africa and Namibia clash in an 'African Derby' at the Rugby World Cup, with both sides looking to bounce back from opening game losses.

FILE: The Namibian national team will go up against the Springboks on 28 September 2019. Picture: rugbyworldcup.com

CAPE TOWN - South Africa and Namibia clash in an 'African Derby' at the Rugby World Cup, with both sides looking to bounce back from opening game losses.

SportsTalk Special hosts Buhle Madulini and John Robbie, along with SuperSport analyst Robbie Kempson, unpack the 13 changes made by Rassie Erasmus, avoiding a potential banana skin and fringe players putting up their hands for regular selection.

We’re 10 games into the Rugby World Cup, and things are heating up. There have even been some surprise results already, such as Uruguay beating Fiji on Wednesday, and the Boks should not be taking anything for granted after they lost to Japan in 2015. This week we talk about team selection as Bok coach Rassie Erasmus swaps 13 players from the team that lost to the All Blacks last Saturday, to play against the 'Welwitschias'.

Schalk Brits has chosen to play at eighth man, which surprised a few observers. So, what’s the thinking behind that?

“He is being groomed as the captain of the B team. You got to have a captain that can get the spirit going, calm things down and who has the experience,” says John Robbie.

Brits is no stranger to the back-row position and has played there for coach Erasmus during his time at the Stormers a few years ago. “He’s an exceptionally talented young man. He really does have the quality to play anywhere. It’s not going to be difficult to slot in at eighth man. I think his captaincy will be vital,” says analyst Robbie Kempson.

Points are the priority at this early stage of the tournament, and the Springboks will need to do the necessary without much fuss if they want to do well later in the tournament.

“We are looking for a good, safe performance - no injuries, no red cards and a 20-point lead by half time. But also avoiding a potential banana skin because Namibia played surprisingly well against Italy,” says Robbie. “Half this Namibian team dreamed of playing for the Springboks when they were younger. For them, this is the biggest game of their lives, so give these guys a sniff and this could be a very difficult game.”

Apart from the forwards, the Springbok backline looks exciting and with the experience of Frans Steyn, whom South Africans haven’t seen much of lately, there could see several tries against Namibia on Saturday. “He seems to be playing with a smile on his face and I hope he is given carte blanche to try and open things up in midfield and go through that gaps, particularly from set pieces,” says Robbie.

Kempson agrees and would believes the combination of Lukanyo Am and Steyn is an exciting prospect. “I think Lukhanyo Am is our best centre and if Frans Steyn can bring the excitement we know he can, then he can really electrify the back line and form a good partnership with Am,” Kempson says.

Herschel Jantjies is another one who is expected to perform against Namibia. “We have a massive expectation on him, but he’s got that X-factor to spot a gap and score tries,” says Robbie.

Even against a weaker Namibia, there is still plenty to play for on a big stage like the World Cup, says Robbie. “You play your first team in every World Cup game, except two of the pool matches, so those guys are there to win those matches, provide cover for the regular starters and put their hands up if they can.”

Listen to the full podcast below:

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