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'We're expected to lift the intensity and physicality' – Elstadt aiming to make impact off Boks bench

The versatile Toulouse forward has been named among the replacements for the opening Test against the Lions.

South Africa and Toulouse forward Rynhardt Elstadt.
South Africa and Toulouse forward Rynhardt Elstadt.
Image: Pierre Stevenin

THE BOMB SQUAD may be unavailable this weekend, but the Springboks are still expecting their bench to provide a big impact when the world champions take on the British & Irish Lions in Cape Town on Saturday.

South Africa’s famed 6/2 bench split played a pivotal role in their 2019 World Cup success, the ability to introduce six fresh forwards in the second-half providing a valuable injection of power as opposition teams battled tired legs and minds in Japan.

Yet in the Cape Town Stadium this Saturday, the Bomb Squad will not be part of the Boks’ plans, with Jacques Nienaber reverting to a 5/3 bench split of forwards and backs for the opening Test.

The decision is largely based on caution. Many of the Boks have had limited game-time in the run-in to this series, with Nienaber noting starting out-half Handre Pollard and winger Makazole Mapimpi – who only returned to squad training on Monday – as particular concerns.

“We just thought that it’s probably not the right time to just go with two backs on the bench,” the South Africa head coach explained.

Warren Gatland, you imagine, breathed a sigh of relief. The Springboks already represent a daunting challenge in terms of the physicality they bring to the fight without having to worry about the Bomb Squad lifting the intensity again as the game reaches boiling point.

The Boks, however, remain confident that their new-look bench still packs a punch.  

Toulouse forward Rynhardt Elstadt represents one of the new faces amid the South Africa replacements.

“Coming from the bench, we play quite an important role,” Elstadt explains.

To lift the intensity where the boys have left off, that is going to be expected from us – to lift the intensity more and the physicality more. 

“The Bomb Squad comes up for a reason, but I hope we don’t disappoint the guys out there.”

Elstadt, 31, will win just his third Test cap if he gets out on the pitch against the Lions.

The versatile forward made his international debut at the age of 29, starting against Australia in July 2019 and playing against Australia the following month, but missed out on the squad for the 2019 World Cup.

cheslin-kolbe-and-rynhardt-elstadt-celebrate-with-the-heineken-champions-cup-trophy Rynhardt Elstadt won the Champions Cup this year alongside South Africa and Toulouse teammate Cheslin Kolbe. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

This weekend he will cover the second row and back row positions for the Springboks from the bench, and says that having to know more than one position leaves him with a heavy workload during the week.

“It’s been expected from day one to fulfill whatever opportunity I get to fulfill,” he says.

“I think I’ve got the most workload of everyone out there (in training), because I need to know some of the lock stuff, I need to know the loose forwards’ work roles as well. But we do kind of combine it, working together, so each one of the boys knows the other’s role. 

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“So that makes it a little bit easier, but being a forward coming off the bench, you put in a lot more work than the guys starting.

“Every player that played in the warm-up matches really stuck up their hand and gave their everything. I was just really surprised that I was named in the side. It’s an honour for me and I hope I can live up to the standard.”

Elstadt has been on the books at Toulouse since 2017, where he has played most of his rugby at flanker, winning a Top 14 title in 2019 before adding a Champions Cup and league double success this year.

“I think my experience in Europe makes a big difference (for the Lions tour).”

“We have a bit of insight into what we could expect. Even the match we (South Africa A) played last Wednesday, we could see the European style coming through, and I think we managed to work around a few things that we weren’t going to expect from them.”

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Ciarán Kennedy

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