Jacques Nienaber and his Springbok coaching staff will face a number of selection headaches going into the all-important deciding Test against the British & Irish Lions. SA Rugby magazine takes a closer look.
The Boks came away victors in the second Test to successfully level the series, but injuries and some returning players may force the coaches to rethink how the side lines up this coming Saturday.
The most high-profile injury is that of talismanic flank Pieter-Steph du Toit. The big blindsider was forced off the field after only 20 minutes after having appeared to be injured in a late tackle by Lions wing Duhan van der Merwe.
Without Du Toit, the Springboks looked shaky in the lineouts with only two jumpers and the Lions began to gain ascendency here until Lood de Jager restored Bok dominance when he entered the fray.
The coaches will need to be mindful of having enough options at lineout time.
If Du Toit is not passed fit, they could either opt to move Franco Mostert to flank and start Lood de Jager or revert to Rynhardt Elstadt at blindside. Both options allow them to retain three lineout options.
Faf de Klerk also suffered what looked to be a tweaked hip-flexor this past Saturday. Sharks scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse has been called up as cover, suggesting De Klerk may not be fit for Saturday’s Test.
The question for the Bok coaches will then be whether to bank on the experience of Cobus Reinach, who has lacked game time at Test level, or start Herschel Jantjies. Nienaber is on record as stating that Jantjies is a more “instinctive” player, making him an ideal impact substitute, whereas Reinach could be seen as a better game manager.
However, the likelihood would surely be to start Jantjies after he came off the bench and banked some experience against the Lions in the first two Tests.
Trevor Nyakane has earned many plaudits after the second Test for switching seamlessly between tighthead and loosehead. It was on the loosehead side that he made an impact, coming on and dominating his opposite man, Kyle Sinckler.
It was a performance of such note that the Springbok coaches may be tempted to keep Nyakane at loosehead for the deciding Test. This decision would be made more difficult if Ox Nche is passed fit.
News broke this week that Duane Vermeulen has rejoined the Bok squad after suffering a lengthy injury spell. His Bulls coach, Jake White, previously indicated that he was a few weeks away from being match fit, however, that may not be the case.
If Vermeulen looks comfortable in training this week, there will surely be an incentive for the Bok coaches to select him to occupy a spot on the bench.
The Springboks have sorely missed Vermeulen’s all-round game. With the injury to Pieter-Steph du Toit, they could do with Vermeulen’s bulk in open play, and his lineout nous.