Marcell Coetzee has been one of the Springboks' standout performers in 2014 and will have a game-defining role to play against the Wallabies this Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Coetzee has played at blindside flank in all four of the Boks' Rugby Championship matches to date. An injury to Francois Louw, however, will see him moving to his preferred position of openside for the coming clash at Newlands.
While he has played out of position in recent weeks, he has certainly made a big impact. His ball-carrying made all the difference during the dying stages of the clash against Argentina in Salta. And while he wore the No 7 jersey in Perth and Wellington, he was excellent at the breakdown and helped his side secure some important turnovers.
Earlier this week, Bok defence coach John MacFarland said that while Louw 's experience would be missed, Coetzee can be relied upon to make the same game-shaping contribution. The Boks defended well in their previous match against the All Blacks, and will be looking for another big performance against a Wallabies side that thrives on quick ball.
Coetzee will be joined by Oupa Mohoje and Duane Vermeulen in the back row. It's important that these three players settle as a combination, and ensure that the Boks win the battle at the rucks and collisions.
Reserve loose forward Schalk Burger will have a role to play late in the second half. Heyneke Meyer has also included veterans Bismarck du Plessis and Bakkies Botha on the bench, and like Burger, both of these hulking specimens will be tasked with lifting the intensity in the dying minutes.
The Boks will fancy themselves at the set pieces, especially after such an impressive scrummaging display in Wellington. It's more important, however, that they win the breakdowns and collisions, and provide the backline with quality ball.
Handré Pollard proved himself at the Cake Tin, and will be a threat if he receives the ball on the front foot. If the Bok pack is under pressure and scrumhalf Francois Hougaard's service is of a low standard, it may be a different story.
The South African game plan was largely successful in Perth. The Wallabies forwards were outplayed and flanker Michael Hooper had a relatively quiet game. Apart from two magical touches, Israel Folau was kept in check thanks to the Boks' accurate kicking game.
The Boks will look to attack a bit more at Newlands this Saturday, but they should be wary of taking too many chances. After all, it was a Bok mistake that led to Rob Horne's 77th-minute try and an unlikely Wallabies victory in Perth.
Both teams are desperate for a win. The Boks haven't won since they beat Argentina in Salta, while the Wallabies haven't won at Newlands since 1992. The Rugby Championship title may be the All Blacks' to lose, but the Boks and Wallabies still have plenty to play for.
With Coetzee and the Bok forwards in red-hot form, the hosts will be big favourites to achieve their objective at Newlands this Saturday.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Springboks 44, Wallabies 34, Draw 1
In Cape Town: Springboks 8, Wallabies 3
COETZEE'S STATS THAT MATTER
21 – The number of tackles he made in round four (Rank 2)
51 – The number of tackles he's made in the Rugby Championship (Rank 2)
4 – The number of turnovers he's made in the Rugby Championship (Rank 1)
Source: Vodacom Rugby Stats App
Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Bakkies Botha, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 JP Pietersen.
Wallabies – 15 Israel Folau, 14 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Matt Toomua, 11 Joe Tomane, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Ben McCalman, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Sam Carter, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Saia Fainga'a, 1 James Slipper,.
Subs: 16 James Hanson 17 Benn Robinson, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 James Horwill, 20 Scott Higginbotham, 21 Nic White, 22 Kurtley Beale, 23 Rob Horne.
Photo: Juan Mabromata/AFP Photo