Brodie Retallick Sport24.co.za | Marcelo Bosch chats to Sport24

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Cape Town – In an exclusive interview, former
Pumas centreMARCELO BOSCHtalks
about the healthy state of Springbok rugby, what makes Schalk Brits such a
special team-mate and the Loftus Test on Saturday.

Sport24 asked: Your assessment of South Africa’s Rugby Championship
triumph?

Marcelo Bosch:The Springboks produced very good performances and
truly deserved to win the Rugby Championship. They started really well against
Australia, played well to draw with New Zealand and their performance against
Argentina away from home was impressive. South Africa pride themselves on their
physicality and we know that the Springboks always want to impose themselves in
terms of the physical side of the game. However, over and above their
physicality, their defence was superb. The way they got off the line, managed
the collisions and made decisions around the breakdown was impressive. Their set-piece
play was very solid and most of all their scrums and driven line-outs were
effective. The Springboks are producing very complete rugby and I really like
the way in which they are playing. For this side, it’s not only about being
direct and physical. They have very good players on the outside who can create
something out of nothing. Handré Pollard, who contributed 31 points against Los
Pumas, is enjoying a very good moment. They have scrumhalves and a pair of
centres that are playing really well and a fullback that is unpredictable. I observe
a Springbok team that has developed plenty of depth and you can see that the
players are enjoying themselves and playing for each other. I’m pleased for
South African rugby and I see them in a good place heading into the Rugby World
Cup which begins in Japan next month.

Sport24 asked: What do you make of the De Allende-Am first-choice
centre pairing?

Marcelo Bosch:Damian de Allende is a quality player. He is very
strong and physical, but he possesses good skills as well and has soft hands.
His partnership with Lukhanyo Am has worked very well in the last three Tests.
It is not only from an attacking point of view, but defensively they were both
very solid. I like them as a midfield combination. They have got experience
playing with each other and they are also functioning really well with flyhalf Pollard.
I see South Africa have made 12 changes to their side for the Test on Saturday,
with Andre Esterhuizen and Jesse Kriel starting in the centres. They are both
very good players as well and it seems as though South Africa have developed
strength in depth in positions. It means Rassie Erasmus can try different
combinations which is great.

Sport24 asked: Your take on Schalk Brits starting for and captaining his
country?

Marcelo Bosch:It’s awesome that Schalk will be playing for and
captaining the Springboks against Los Pumas in Pretoria on Saturday. It’s an
amazing accomplishment for him and he has enjoyed a superb career. I sent him a
text message with my best wishes to say that I am very happy for him and that
he deserves it. It’s great that he has an opportunity to play for South Africa
again. To still be playing for your country at the age of 38 is a huge
achievement. To those who say Schalk is too old for Test rugby, I believe that
as long as you are still performing on the pitch it doesn’t matter how old you
are. When you reach your late-30s you perhaps lose a bit of speed and reaction
time, but if you are still physically up to it, which Schalk is, then the
experience you can offer as a senior player is invaluable. If you are still
performing and playing really well, as Schalk is doing, why wouldn’t you be
selected to play for your national team? I don’t see any reason not to pick him
because he knows the game and physically and mentally he is still in very good
shape. Erasmus knows what Schalk can bring to the team in the sense of his
experience and leadership and, as a hooker, he brings a good scrum set-piece
and throwing in the lineouts. In terms of adding value off the field, Schalk
was very influential during my time at Saracens. As a person he has plenty of
charisma, is very positive and he energises his teammates because he loves
playing rugby. It was always a pleasure to play with him.

Sport24 asked: What do you make of the mass changes for both sides for
Loftus?

Marcelo Bosch:With this game effectively serving as a friendly,
after the Springboks clinched the Rugby Championship last weekend, both coaches
want to give game time to other players and also allow their first-team time to
recover. In the heads of the coaches, their 31-man World Cup squad lists are
basically decided and they don’t want any key players to get injured. It allows
Erasmus and Mario Ledesma to test other combinations and assess their depth
which is logical. Lucas Mensa and Jeronimo de la Fuente will start in the
midfield for Los Pumas who have made 11 changes to their starting line-up. De
la Fuente captained the Jaguares during Super Rugby and he is a regular for
Argentina, so we know how he plays. Meanwhile, Mensa is uncapped and, to be
honest, I don’t know too much about the 23-year-old inside centre. I was a bit
surprised that the team didn’t take Matias Moroni and Matias Orlando to South
Africa. Their absence presents an opportunity for Mensa and we will see how he and
his teammates fare on Saturday. I hope that Argentina perform better in
Pretoria than they did in Salta. I know that this game is no longer for the
Rugby Championship, but it is still a Test match and you want to play serious
rugby. If the weather conditions are good, I feel like we will see a game where
both teams want to keep the ball in hand. If Argentina can improve their
scrummaging performance, hopefully we can have a more competitive contest than
last Saturday, which was definitely Los Pumas’ worst game of the Rugby
Championship. Going into a World Cup you need to have a strong set-piece and it
will be front of mind for Ledesma.

Sport24 asked: How do you see the World Cup picture playing out from
next month?

Marcelo Bosch:Four years ago,

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