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Rugby | Springboks

Much for Boks to mull over



The second half of October, with some national players returning to Currie Cup duty and the Rugby Championship consigned to history, is usually when the domestic competition comes into sharper focus, and this year should be no different.

Which national players will be available to play in the last league matches and then the play-offs that follow is yet to be established, but those not on national contracts could well be joined by nationally contracted players who haven’t seen much action recently in turning out for their provincial teams.

In the gap between the tour of Australasia and the start of the home leg, two nationally contracted players, Damian de Allende and Handre Pollard, were released to play as they hadn’t seen much onfield action, and it is possible that coach Allister Coetzee will go that same route. Although Coetzee has hinted that the gap between now and the end of year tour might be at least partially filled by a training camp, game time for Pollard in particular might be a good idea as there will be many critics now leaning towards a change at flyhalf for the tests against Ireland, Italy, France and Wales.

Wilco Louw made a good fist of his first appearance on the field against the All Blacks but hasn’t seen enough action to justify keeping him from playing in Western Province’s remaining games. He will be needed by the Cape team, as will Dillyn Leyds, who started against Australia and New Zealand but didn’t play before that.

If Chiliboy Ralepelle is going to continue to be the back-up hooker to Malcolm Marx going forward, then he needs to get game time for the Sharks, which is easier said than done as Franco Marais is seen as the first choice No 2 in Durban. The Du Preez twins should also be back for the Sharks in the business end of competition (Jean-Luc has mostly played as a replacement and Dan hasn’t played yet for the Boks).

The Ralepelle issue is just one of several that Coetzee and his coaches need to weigh up before the start of the November tour. And there is a lot that can be gained from them by watching the closing rounds of Currie Cup with some interest.

While the pack stood up well in the last part of the Championship season, and Louw provided an answer when it comes to the problematic back-up tighthead prop scenario, the backline still has it all to do when it comes to completing the jigsaw as the Boks head towards the penultimate year in this World Cup cycle.

Elton Jantjies continues to impress as a flyhalf when his forwards are giving him comfortable front-foot ball but the minute the battle up front is evened out he looks way too nervy, and Pollard must come into the frame as a potential starting No 10 going forward.

Jan Serfontein is the star player among the backs but the midfield combination requires some thought, so the impressive Lions duo of Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Harold Vorster can surely gain from keeping their momentum up now that their team looks likely to be playing in the semifinals.

The Blue Bulls also suddenly have light at the end of their tunnel and while the Lions and WP should square up in one play-off game, with the venue to be determined by this week’s results (a Province win over the Sharks will make it a Newlands semi but the other way around if they don’t), the Pretoria team probably has a Kings Park semifinal in its future.

That will be a good stage for Warrick Gelant to show again that he has the presence that might be required in the Bok back three going forward. The Bulls fullback has been in outstanding form and surely can’t be too far away from wearing the Bok No 15. A star showing in the play-offs, which are always better supported and more intensely watched than the league phases, could just clinch it for him.

There are other players though who are worthy of more than just cursory consideration if the Bok coaches have correctly identified where their potential problem areas are. Sharks outside centre Lukhanyo Am has enjoyed an impressive season when not in the medical room and is set to return at the weekend, as is the Sharks’ big wing Kobus van Wyk. The latter wasn’t even in the South African A squad in June but he is a better player than that and has a claim that is worthy of consideration.



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