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Rugby | Springboks

Kriel injury will force coach’s hand



The shoulder injury that has ruled Jaco Kriel out of Saturday’s big Castle Lager Rugby Championship clash with the All Blacks should mean that the Springboks will return to the back row balance that many critics would prefer.

Kriel sustained a shoulder injury in South Africa’s 23-all draw with Australia in Perth at the weekend. He did not feel it during the game but complained about discomfort afterwards and when the condition had not improved by Monday he was sent for a scan when the squad arrived in Auckland. The scan revealed that Kriel had sustained a labrum tear.

The Bok management will not call for a replacement as the Boks have sufficient loose-forward cover on tour. Jean-Luc du Preez, the formidable Sharks blindside flank, looks set to take Kriel’s place on the side of the scrum and after doing well as a replacement and bringing considerable impact late in the last few tests, his physical presence could be a welcome addition to the Bok starting mix.

Coach Allister Coetzee has already spoken about how important it is for the Boks to win the gain-line battle and to halt the All Black momentum in their quest for victory in Albany. As it will be important against the All Blacks for the Boks to get a physical foothold early in the game, Du Preez was probably being considered as a starting option even before Kriel was ruled out, but now Coetzee’s hand has been forced. .

Kriel, who played the whole of the Perth game with No 8 Uzair Cassiem being the man who made way for Du Preez in the second half, has come into his own as a member of the Bok loose trio and has shown excellent recent form. However it is not his ability that was an issue for those hoping for the Boks to return to the policy of playing a big blindside flanker. Rather it was a question of back row balance.

It will be interesting to see who Coetzee selects as replacement for Du Preez on the bench. There is a chance that Du Preez’s twin brother Daniel, who can cover both No 8 and flank, could be called up.

The other areas that Coetzee will be looking closely at when he considers his selections for Saturday will be the second row and the front row. Coenie Oosthuizen’s broken arm and departure for South Africa has left a gap at tighthead, where Trevor Nyakane, Ruan Dreyer and squad newcomer Wilco Louw are the options.

The second row conundrum is a pleasant one for Coetzee to have. Pieter-Steph du Toit was outstanding at No 5 lock when he got his chance to start in Perth and will be hard to leave out of the starting team. However, the man he replaced in that game, Franco Mostert, was also in excellent form earlier in the season and was being rested, not dropped. It will be a difficult call to make though as he was the incumbent when he was rested, Mostert should be favoured to regain his position, with Du Toit reverting back to the bench and the important impact role he has fulfilled this season.



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