Hooker Malcolm Marx may be the only unforced change to the starting side when the Springboks take on Wales this Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Cardiff.
The Bok medical team has confirmed that Marx is on the mend and is likely to feature in South Africa’s final game of the season. Marx missed the clash against Italy due to a shoulder injury and was replaced by Bongi Mbonambi in the starting lineup.
Team doctor Konrad von Hagen said on Monday that Beast Mtawarira is yet to be cleared of a groin injury sustained in the match against Italy last week. The veteran prop will be given more time to recover before a call is made on his availability. It seems likely, though, that Steven Kitshoff will start at No 1 in his place.
Siya Kolisi is back from paternity leave and could be seen greeting fellow players and coaches at the team hotel in Cardiff on Monday morning. However, the Boks have lost two experienced loose forwards in Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw, who have returned to their respective clubs in Europe. The upshot is that there will be big changes in the back row this week.
That said, Coetzee gave one the impression that he is reluctant to make changes in the backline. Warrick Gelant may have to be content with a spot on the bench while the likes of Lukhanyo Am and Curwin Bosch could finish the tour without a minute of game time to their names.
Coetzee confirmed that Elton Jantjies has secured a release from his club in Japan and that he and first-choice flyhalf Handré Pollard could feature against Wales.
‘We will pick the best available team again this weekend,’ the Bok coach said. ‘We’re up against a quality Welsh outfit. We will select the team according to our plan and the opposition. So yes, the best possible team will play.
‘We’ll definitely miss the leadership of Flo and Duane. They made their mark [in recent weeks] and especially with regards to players based overseas. It was great to have them around.
‘I’m sure guys like Dan du Preez, Uzair Cassiem and Oupa Mohoje have learned a lot from Duane and Flo over the past few weeks. Hopefully they can take the opportunity. That’s the nature of the game, two experienced loosies not around, but three more exciting players coming in.
‘With regards to Warrick, he had a couple of exciting moments with ball in hand last week. According to my knowledge, the roof [at the Millennium Stadium] will be closed this weekend. It’s a nice pitch to play on. Warrick is obviously his best in dry conditions. Who knows, you may find him in the mix again this weekend.’
Coetzee said that the Boks have built up some momentum over the past two weeks. South Africa beat France 18-17 in Paris and then thumped Italy 35-6 in a rain-affected match in Padua.
‘We’re getting better, and it starts with our discipline,’ he said. ‘You can’t concede silly penalties in northern-hemisphere conditions. Those freebies will hurt you; either the opposition kick for touch and set up an attacking set piece in your territory or they kick for goal and score points.
‘That’s the lessons we’ve learned. We’ve made massive improvements in terms of territory and getting lineouts in the right areas. It shows the kicking plan is getting better.
‘Those are the little things that will help you improve. Also the consistency in the team helps.
‘There will be work-ons because we’re playing against a great Welsh side with a fantastic coaching team,’ Coetzee added. ‘We have to be at our best again this weekend.’
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