Coetzee to change midfield?

Allister Coetzee could take another gamble by selecting the untried centre combination of Juan de Jongh and Jesse Kriel, writes JON CARDINELLI.

When Coetzee announced his squad ahead of the Rugby Championship last month, there were some concerns about the lack of depth in certain backline positions. The Bok coach named only one specialist fullback in Johan Goosen, and only one specialist No 12 in Damian de Allende.

In one sense, the Boks are fortunate that both players have come through the two matches against Argentina unscathed. In another, they have a problem in that crucial No 12 position, with De Allende still battling for form.

According to Netwerk24, Coetzee is set to make two changes in the centres ahead of the Boks' must-win clash with the Wallabies this Saturday. Juan de Jongh is expected to replace De Allende, while Jesse Kriel could get the nod ahead of Lionel Mapoe. The two ran in midfield at a training session in Brisbane on Monday.

De Allende and Mapoe have failed to impress in the Bok midfield over the past five games. Of course, their impotence on attack and struggles on defence can be linked to the inconsistency of the forwards.

Over the past five matches, Coetzee has also opted to back two inexperienced Test players in Faf de Klerk and Elton Jantjies at scrumhalf and flyhalf respectively. The backline as a whole has lacked experience.

Nevertheless, it appears as if De Jongh and Kriel will be backed to provide the Boks with some impetus in the next match against the Wallabies. Coetzee will announce his team on Wednesday evening. De Jongh and Kriel could start their first Test as a midfield combination on Saturday.

De Jongh made his Test debut at No 12 against Wales in 2010. Over the subsequent years, however, it's been clear through his performances at Super Rugby and Test levels that his talents are best utilised at No 13.

Kriel played a utility role for the Bulls in 2015. Then Bok coach Heyneke Meyer subsequently declared that the youngster's future was at No 13.

Earlier this year, however, Coetzee said that Kriel may well provide the Boks with an exciting fullback alternative. Now it seems as if Coetzee is set to revisit the option of Kriel starting at No 13.

De Jongh and Kriel will be under pressure to settle from the outset on Saturday. The backline as a whole may lack synergy as a result of the changes.

With wing Ruan Combrinck ruled out for the remainder of the Rugby Championship, Coetzee will be forced to make a further backline change. Netwerk24 reports that Francois Hougaard and Lwazi Mvovo alternated on the right wing on Monday.

Hougaard hasn't played wing for the Boks since 2012. He played eight Tests at scrumhalf in 2014. The match against Wales in Cardiff on 29 November 2014 was his last for the Boks.

Mvovo last featured for the Boks in the second Test against Ireland in June. He was dropped after a poor aerial and kicking performance.

Photo: Gabriel Rossi/Gallo Images

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Jon Cardinelli