Rassie Erasmus was responsible for another surprise when he invited lock Marvin Orie and inside centre André Esterhuizen to join the Springbok camp in Auckland this week.
Always one to play his cards close to his chest, the question will probably remain officially unanswered. However, part of the answer could lie in Erasmus’ approach to the match in Sala next Saturday.
Is the World Cup uppermost in his mind and will he therefore forego the chance of seeing other options in various positions with his best available team playing the Pumas?
Or is he still “experimenting”, using the remaining two tests as trials before announcing the World Cup team, thereby lessening the chance of a first Rugby Championship title since South Africa won the Sanzaar Tri Nations in 2009?
Orie, who played in only his second test when he came on as a substitute in the 68th minute against the Wallabies ten days ago, has grown in stature and quality as a lock since moving from the Bulls to the Lions and has quietly done what is expected of a top-class lock over the past few seasons.
But aren’t there enough locks in the Bok squad? Eben Etzebeth, RG Snyman, Lood de Jager and Franco Mostert have all impressed in the last two tests. On the bench, if need be, Erasmus has Pieter-Steph du Toit in case of a crisis and the abrasive Rynhardt Elstadt, who both have plenty of experience of the lock position.
♦ So why was Orie asked to fly over to New Zealand where the Boks are in camp before what could be the decider of the Rugby Championship against Argentina on Saturday?
The most logical reason that springs to mind is the urgent need to give Du Toit a break. Mostert, who has played at flank often enough, is exactly the type of honest grinder with lots of the physicality in his play that Du Toit has.
Then RG Smith, Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager can get the opportunity to show off their paces while Du Toit gets his rest and Mostert his chance at flank, where Elstadt will probably also have a run off the bench following a solid first test effort against the Wallabies.
Esterhuizen? Playing close to the gain line on attack is obviously an Erasmus-strategy. Damian de Allende and Lukhanyo Am did it well enough against the All Blacks, but it could be that Erasmus wants even more of a presence on attack at 12, a big man that really asks questions of the tacklers opposing him.
Whether Esterhuizen’s tackling will be found wanting against the nifty Pumas is another answer Erasmus could still be searching for.