Springbok coach Allister Coetzee is set to make a double change in the halfbacks ahead of the must-win clash with the Wallabies on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg reports.
The Bok side to face the Wallabies at Loftus Versfeld will be named at 13:00 today. There may be as many as three changes to the starting backline. Two of those changes should come as no surprise.
Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies have started together in six of the last seven Tests. While they have conjured up some magic on attack, their poor game management, tactical kicking and defence has often let the team down. This week, De Klerk and Jantjies look set to be axed from the starting lineup.
Indeed, the Lions halfbacks may miss out on selection altogether. Rudy Paige is expected to start at No 9 and Morné Steyn at No 10. Going by what Coetzee said on Monday, Pat Lambie is fit and available and could provide flyhalf and fullback cover on a bench that includes six forwards and just two backs.
Over the past seven matches, as many as 40 points have been left on the park due to missed penalties and conversions. It's clear that the Boks are in dire need of a reliable goal-kicker.
One can understand why Coetzee would turn to Steyn at this stage. The Boks have lost their last three games. They desperately need to beat the Wallabies this Saturday.
Coetzee might be tempted to start Lambie. The Sharks pivot is a better runner and distributor than Steyn. He proved himself as a match-winner when he booted a late penalty to down the All Blacks in 2014.
That said, Lambie hasn’t enjoyed a lot of rugby over the past three months. To rush him back into the starting lineup at this stage may be a risk.
Paige has the kicking skills to boost the Boks in a more pragmatic approach, and it's for that reason that he should be expected to make a postive impact at Loftus. What might be a concern, however, is Paige's lack of game time in recent months. Since joining the Bok squad in early June, Paige has played just 19 minutes in five Tests. He may be wanting for confidence.
The Boks do have a third scrumhalf option at their disposal. Francois Hougaard has been used on the wing over the course of the Rugby Championship. Prior to his recall, however, Hougaard was playing, and excelling, at scrumhalf for the Worcester Warriors in England.
It’s believed that fullback Willie le Roux will come straight back into the matchday squad. Where this leaves Johan Goosen, a gifted player who was in title-winning form for Racing 92 before he joined the Boks in August, is unclear.
Tighthead prop Julian Redelinghuys and lock Lood de Jager are likely to feature after recovering from their respective injuries. Their selections will strengthen the match 23.
What may compromise the team in their quest to claim an important win is the back-row and midfield selections. Coetzee is likely to stick with Francois Louw, Oupa Mohoje and Warren Whiteley in the loose trio, and with Juan de Jongh and Jesse Kriel in the midfield.
The Boks have underperformed at the collisions and breakdowns over the course of the Rugby Championship. They’re missing a heavy hitter in that blindside position, as well as an abrasive No 12 that can breach the gainline.
One wonders when flanker Willem Alberts will receive an opportunity to start, and when hard-running centres such as Frans Steyn and Rohan Janse van Rensburg will be drafted into the squad.
Earlier this week, Coetzee said that physical players such as Steyn and Janse van Rensburg are not needed at this point. Coetzee said that the Boks possess a similar player in De Allende. The Bok coach then released De Allende to play for Western Province in the Currie Cup.
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