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Rugby | Springboks

Allister Coetzee © Gallo Images

Selection posers for Boks

With the Castle Lager Incoming Tours series already wrapped up after Saturday’s win in Durban, Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has a number of selection posers to consider ahead of Saturday’s third test in Johannesburg.

For one, nothing would suit the coach more than grabbing a third straight win and a 3-0 whitewash in a series that he went into under a load of pressure, but in terms of the bigger picture, the game presents a unique opportunity to give one or two fringe players an opportunity to make an impact.

The latter point will be a massive focus ahead of a much tougher Rugby Championship coming up, especially as the young Bok team will be tested, but against this, the counter argument of gaining momentum by playing the same team together for another test will also weigh heavily on his mind.

Either way, Coetzee already has some firm plans of his own with some of the decisions already made easier for him, with Oupa Mohoje ruled out of all training this week with the concussion and Jean-Luc du Preez putting in an inspired performance when he came onto the field.

Du Preez is surely likely to get the nod to start this week, especially after the balance his physicality leant to the trio and if he moves into the starting line-up, there is likely to be a place for Jaco Kriel on the bench this weekend when the Boks finish off their series against the French on the 22nd anniversary of the 1995 World Cup triumph at the same venue.

“Jaco might find himself in the starting 23 this weekend. Jaco has recovered tremendously and I think he was always a week early with his return to play protocol. But now I can see he trains a lot more confident and I can’t wait to see him getting an opportunity in the side again.”

Coetzee knows all too well what is riding on the fixture, and said he would love to keep the team the same, but he also has to see the opportunity to build some capacity ahead of the Rugby Championship.

“I would like to keep the team as much the same as possible, as far as I can. But there is also an opportunity to build capacity. With the performance like Jean-Luc, there is an opportunity for a guy like him, in order to ensure we build that capacity. There might be one or two other changes but definitely not wholesale changes. The French are a good side and we respect them, we have massive respect for them. This is not just a match with the series being wrapped up. No, it is another test for us, and we must show every week that we have progressed,” Coetzee said on Monday.

“In terms of all the departments in the game, I want to see consistency in the way we defended in the second half after halftime. On attack the way we have used the width and just finishing opportunities. We’ve created a number that have been positive and with time I know they will come. It is a matter of time and we must keep on building on that. The big thing for me in our kicking game, which is an underestimated factor in our success, is the way our wingers work in terms of their chasing ability.

“Sometimes people criticise you for not having big wingers, but I don’t think big wingers have that aerobic and anaerobic ability to sprint back and make that tackle on the tryline. That is where our wingers are really playing the part. A lot of players are performing and you’d like to have 15 players performing every weekend and that will help the consistency in our game as well.”

The other interesting choice comes down to the midfield, where Jesse Kriel needs to pass the return to play protocol this week to be eligible for selection. While Kriel won’t be risked, if he does pass the tests then it will leave Coetzee with the choice of returning him to the side or opting for Lionel Mapoe for a second week in the position.

Coetzee praised Kriel and reminded those who would listen about his impact in the first test before being concussed, but admitted it would leave him with a headache.

“Look if I reflect back and look at the first test, and how well he played, it is really pleasing after the Super Rugby season he has had, where he played a bit at fullback, how easy he settled in at 13 and how he played. Obviously, Lionel had a chance this weekend also performed. That is why I keep on saying the beauty about this squad and the team we have now, it is really, really close. An injury is never a nice thing but the next guys stepping in, delivers and that is a really nice thing.

“It is a headache for me especially, but I know I will make the right decision.”

The Bok coach also praised Oupa Mohoje, and said losing him was a loss for the side as he had a number of good moments in both tests that warranted his selection.

“It is a massive loss to lose Oupa. We are happy with his game and where it was going to. He was a main lineout specialist, a third option to have in the lineout and has the ability to run like a front lock in general play, carrying hard. His defensive work around the field, both him and Siya (Kolisi) have been strong in defence.

"Last week’s defensive performance was outstanding. You can see there is competition there and it is momentum-stopping, and that is a big thing against the French, you have to do that. Oupa has done well there. His progress, confidence and his development as a player in small little things that people might not be aware of. The detail, and the execution of that detail is really amazing and pleasing.”

Whatever other selections the Bok coach decides upon, the message will be the same though, the team want the 3-0 series win over the French as a badge of honour on how far they have progressed and Coetzee is normally rather conservative in his team selections.

Either way, Saturday’s test won’t be a dead rubber – not by a long shot.


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