Combrinck can provide balance

Allister Coetzee would do well to back Ruan Combrinck ahead of Lwazi Mvovo in the series decider against Ireland on Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI in Port Elizabeth.

The Springbok match-day squad to play Ireland in the third and decisive Test of the series will be announced at 13:00 on Thursday. Coetzee is expected to make one forced change to his starting XV. Two changes are expected on the bench.

Duane Vermeulen has been ruled out of the match due to an elbow injury. As a result, Warren Whiteley will start his first Test at No 8.

The uncapped Jaco Kriel will take Whiteley’s spot on the bench. The final change should see loosehead prop Steven Kitshoff replacing the injured Trevor Nyakane at No 17. Like Kriel and Bongi Mbonambi, Kitshoff could make his Test debut at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium this Saturday.

The forwards will have plenty to prove following their inconsistent performance at Ellis Park. The backs need to produce a sharper aerial and tactical-kicking showing.

Ireland targeted Mvovo last week with a series of high balls. The tactic worked to great effect. Mvovo was placed under pressure by the Ireland kick-chase. On several occasions, he lost the ball in the air, and Ireland continued to make inroads into the Bok defence.

And yet, going by how the Boks lined up at training earlier this week, Mvovo is likely to retain his place in the starting XV. One has to question the decision given Mvovo’s present form.

As was witnessed in the second half at Ellis Park last Saturday, Combrinck can provide the Boks with a safer pair of hands under the high ball as well as an effective tactical right boot. The Boks need to win the aerial contest this weekend, as well as the tactical-kicking battle.

At present, the Boks lack a good right-footed kicker. Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, flyhalf Elton Jantjies and fullback Willie le Roux all favour the left boot. We saw how this limited the Boks’ kicking options last week, and how Ireland kept the hosts pinned in the left-hand corner of the field for significant periods.

Earlier this week, Coetzee lauded Combrinck’s performance at Ellis Park, and made special mention of his right boot. The Bok coach spoke about Combrinck as if the Lions winger was a good bet to start at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

Coetzee said that the right-footed Combrinck could offer the Boks a much needed tactical-kicking option. He also suggested that Combrinck could be tasked with taking the long-range shots at goal.

On Monday afternoon, Mvovo continued to train with the Bok starting side. When the first high ball was launched on his wing, he dropped it.

Clearly the player is short on confidence at the moment. That is something Ireland will look to exploit in the high-stakes Test on Saturday.

Probable Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Morné Steyn, 23 Ruan Combrinck.

Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images

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Jon Cardinelli