Bismarck du Plessis is likely to pack down against the diminutive Dane Coles in a crucial scrum battle at Ellis Park on Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg.
When Coles was announced to start for the All Blacks against the Boks at Eden Park, there were more than just a few raised eyebrows in the South African camp.
The Boks expected Hansen to favour the experience, not to mention the scrummaging ability, of Andrew Hore or Keven Mealamu. Hansen defended his selection when queried by the media, stating that it was a selection made with the future in mind. The All Blacks coach added that he believed Coles would match Du Plessis at scrum time.
After the final whistle at Eden Park, Hansen declared himself satisfied that Coles had more than held his own in the face of a big onslaught. This bullish statement was made in spite of the All Blacks scrum backpedalling whenever Du Plessis was on the field.
Du Plessis and his front-row team-mates targeted the weak link in that All Blacks frontline, and the home pack paid the price. And come the return fixture at Ellis Park, we could be in for a repeat as Du Plessis seems set to face off against Coles.
There have been strong indicators that Coles will start, although it is not certain who will pack down at No 3.
Tighthead Owen Franks was subbed during the All Blacks' recent match against Argentina, and is believed to be nursing a groin injury. It will be interesting to see if Hansen pushes Charlie Faumuina into the starting line-up for such a challenging and important contest.
Openside flank Richie McCaw is expected to return to the starting team after missing the past two Tests with a knee injury. There is some doubt, however, around Kieran Read's involvement.
Read played against Argentina on Saturday despite being listed as a doubtful starter earlier in the week. The classy No 8 is still carrying a back injury, and if it doesn't prevent him from starting at Ellis Park, it will certainly limit his efficiency.
As reported on Monday, the Boks have just one serious concern of their own. JJ Engelbrecht sustained a quad injury in the previous match against Australia, and has been unable to train. The outside centre watched Monday's practice at St Peter's College from the sideline, and a call on his availability will be made later in the week.
Two other Bok players sat out of the session. Tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis has an ankle injury, although the Bok medical staff say that it is not serious. Du Plessis will be monitored in the build-up to the Test against the All Blacks. Wing Bryan Habana missed the session altogether due to a bad bout of flu, but is expected to be back on his feet in the next couple of days.
Probable Bok XV – 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Photo: Sandra Mu/Getty Images
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