Rassie Erasmus said South Africa left plenty of room for improvement despite thrashing Namibia 57-3 at the Rugby World Cup.

But the Springboks boss felt difficult conditions were again a factor in Toyota City on Saturday, where his team scored nine tries but found the humidity a challenging obstacle to performing at their fluent best.

The heat, and its intensity, has been a challenge for most teams in the tournament, leaving the ball slippery and players swiftly coated in sweat.

Erasmus believes the problem will pass later in the tournament, as the climate changes, but for now he says it is "tough for everybody".

That problem did not prevent the Springboks dominating from start to finish against Namibia, however, with Makazole Mapimpi's try double taking him to 10 five-pointers in 10 Tests for South Africa. Only Rieko Ioane and Joe Taufete'e, both with 12, have scored more tries in Test rugby than Mapimpi since his debut in June 2018.

Bongi Mbonambi also grabbed two tries, with the hooker burrowing over from close range on each occasion against unsteady Namibian defence.

After last weekend's defeat to New Zealand, the objective was straightforward for South Africa.

"We needed to bounce back and to win," Erasmus said.

He added: "For us, I think a few boxes ticked. Certainly not a perfect performance; certainly a lot of work still to do.

"It wasn't a wonderful performance but it was a solid performance. I think it was the first 50-pointer in the World Cup so that's not too bad."

Ball-handling was an issue that affected Ireland in their shock defeat to hosts Japan earlier in the day, and after watching that match in its entirety on television, Erasmus insisted it was a serious factor for teams to contend with.

"It's difficult to explain to people how tough it is to handle in those conditions," he said.

"It's always easy the first 15 or 20 minutes. The ball's going to stick, and then after that it's going to be almost impossible to handle the ball."

Erasmus added: "I think after the pool games, according to what players who've played here before and some of the coaches who've coached here in Japan have told me, there's a sudden change in two or three weeks' time; not so much in the temperature but the humidity changes quite quickly, and I think then handling the ball gets a little bit easier.

"There might be one or two upsets in the pool stages but when you get to the quarter-finals, semi-finals, final, then the best team probably will win, because that humidity factor won't play such a big role.

"A classic example was probably today with Ireland and Japan, just because of the way Japan are used to this and the way they handle the ball.

"Ireland are a team that love to keep ball in hand, although they do have a great kicking game. I watched that game right to the end and only went to the warm-up after that game was finished.

"It definitely changes your approach. I don't think you will adapt in the next week or two, and all of a sudden it probably will go away. It's tough for everybody."

Schalk Brits began the match at number eight, rather than his usual hooker berth, and said South Africa delivered "a great performance".

"Whatever the coach wants, I'll play. Just to be on the pitch with such a great bunch of boys, it's phenomenal," said 38-year-old Brits.

South Africa move on to face Italy next and cannot afford to stumble against the Azzurri, who have beaten Namibia and Canada so far.

"They'll bring different challenges," Brits said. "We've watched both of their games and it's a great side with Conor [O'Shea] in charge.

"We'll analyse them and hopefully we can outsmart them."

Schalk Brits described the chance to captain South Africa for the first time at the age of 38 as a "dream come true" and expressed his gratitude for the opportunity.

Brits has not started for the Springboks since 2008 and has just 12 caps to his name, but he will lead the side out against Argentina this weekend.

The Bulls hooker becomes his country's oldest first-time skipper and is relishing the opportunity.

Brits says he will rely on regular captain Siya Kolisi for advice and hopes he can justify the "unbelievable honour" of being involved.

"To lead my country is one dream that has come true for me and it's going to be amazing to lead out this group of players representing our country and the Springboks," he told reporters on Friday.

"For me, being part of the Springboks is such a huge honour. I've been involved with the Springboks since 2008 and only played 12 Test matches, but every time I get selected, or even performing a supporting role, it's an unbelievable honour.

"Siya is still our captain and I am going to rely heavily on him and the other leaders in our team.

"From my perspective, we just want a complete team performance, and if we can get that right then I think we will be happy as a team."

Happy just to be back in the side, having last year returned from a lengthy spell at Saracens, Brits added: "Being back in the country and then part of the squad is unbelievable.

"I am really grateful, every day, for having a second chance."

Schalk Brits will become the second oldest captain in Springbok history when he leads South Africa against Argentina on Saturday.

Hooker Brits, at 38 years and three months, has been chosen to lead the Boks in the Test at Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria, as he makes his first start for the national team in over 10 years.

Victor Matfield was almost three months older than Brits when he skippered the Springboks in the 2015 Rugby World Cup third-place match, but Brits becomes the oldest man to be a first-time captain of the team.

With World Cup places at stake, coach Rassie Erasmus has selected a strong yet experimental side, challenging some of his players to prove they deserve a seat on the plane to Japan.

Erasmus said it was "make or break" for a number of the players, as he prepares to finalise his tournament squad.

The pack shows changes following the Boks' Rugby Championship triumph, with flanker Siya Kolisi, number eight Marcell Coetzee and prop Thomas du Toit named in the starting XV, with Wilco Louw - another prop - and back-rower Marco van Staden on the bench.

Kolisi, coming back from a knee injury, is the team's regular captain but may only last for part of the first half as Erasmus eases him back into the team.

"I've asked Siya to empty his tank and go as hard for as long as he can," Erasmus said.

"I've told him he might even come off in the first half. He has played less than 50 minutes of Currie Cup rugby in the last 12 weeks but I needed him to have a taste of Test rugby again before we leave for Japan."

Cobus Reinach gets a chance to impress at scrum-half, with fly-half Elton Jantjies primed to take over the captaincy if - as seems likely - South Africa replace Brits with the uncapped Scarra Ntubeni during the match.

Herschel Jantjies is ruled out after taking a blow to the head in training that is not expected to affect his World Cup chances.

Erasmus urged his players to raise their level for what is their last match before heading to Japan.

He said: "No matter what has happened before this weekend, the momentum we will go to the World Cup with will depend on what happens on Saturday.

"Some of these players will know they are on the plane but for others it is make or break – and even if they don't make the plane there will be six standby roles to be identified."


South Africa team to play Argentina: Warrick Gelant, Sbu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Andre Esterhuizen, Dillyn Leyds, Elton Jantjies, Cobus Reinach; Thomas du Toit, Schalk Brits, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Lood de Jager, Siya Kolisi, Rynhardt Elstadt, Marcell Coetzee.

Replacements: Scarra Ntubeni, Lizo Gqoboka, Wilco Louw, Marvin Orie, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Faf de Klerk, Frans Steyn.

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