D-Day for Jantjies

All will be revealed with regard to Elton Jantjies’s injury and the make-up of the Springbok match 23 at the team announcement on Thursday afternoon. JON CARDINELLI reports.

Earlier this week, the Bok medical staff said that there was a good chance of Jantjies starting against Ireland in the first Test. The injured right hand of the Lions flyhalf has been fitted with a custom-made brace, and he has made steady progress at training.

On Thursday, however, Jantjies will take full contact for the first time since sustaining a finger fracture. Following the morning’s training session at the Cape Town Stadium, coach Allister Coetzee will know whether Jantjies can be pushed to start at No 10 at Newlands.

Over the past two weeks, Coetzee has been optimistic about Jantjies winning his race against time. On Tuesday, Coetzee made another confident statement about Jantjies’s physical wellbeing when he released the Test squad’s third specialist flyhalf, Garth April, to the SA A side.

April will start at No 10 for the SA A side against the England Saxons in Bloemfontein on Friday night. On Saturday morning, he will fly to Cape Town to rejoin the Bok squad ahead of the Test against Ireland.

April will be on standby for the Boks. That said, Coetzee may have been reluctant to release April at all if Jantjies, or Pat Lambie for that matter, was in real danger of missing the first Test.

The big question, of course, is whether Coetzee intends to use Jantjies as a starter or from the bench. Jantjies's Super Rugby form warrants a start. However, he is coming back from injury and Coetzee might be reluctant to expose the player from the outset.

Coetzee will announce his 23-man squad to face Ireland at 14:45 on Thursday. The announcement was initially scheduled for 14:00. Perhaps Coetzee and the Bok selectors will use the extra time to assess the injuries and finalise the team.

The same combination that ran at the training session in Belhar on Monday afternoon ran at the Cape Town Stadium on Tuesday. Lambie and Jantjies alternated at flyhalf due to the latter’s inability to take contact. Apart from the flyhalf position, the identity of the starting XV was made clear.

Coetzee released four players from his 31-man squad for SA A duty earlier this week. A group of 27 players have continued to train in the lead-up to the Test at Newlands. Four players in that latter group won’t feature in the first clash against Ireland.

Bongi Mbonambi looks set to make his Test debut from the bench. Julian Redelinghuys and Rudy Paige should also be among the Bok reserves. Pieter-Steph du Toit is coming back from a hamstring injury, but has shown no signs of strain in training this past week. It wouldn’t surprise to see Du Toit included in the match 23.

Who will Coetzee select as his reserve loosehead prop, loose forward and outside back? Will he opt for players who already boast Test experience on the bench, or will he favour fresh blood?

Will Coetzee pick Trevor Nyakane ahead of Steven Kitshoff? Will he take the loose-forward dynamic into account and include No 8 Warren Whiteley as specialist cover for Duane Vermeulen, or will he back openside Jaco Kriel to make an impact off the bench?

Ruan Combrinck could provide an exciting option at wing or fullback late in the game. However, the Boks may need Jesse Kriel’s experience and ability to cover a midfield that is looking thin following the recent injury to Jan Serfontein.

Probable Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Elton Jantjies/Pat Lambie, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Trevor Nyakane,18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Warren Whiteley, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Elton Jantjies/Pat Lambie, 23 Jesse Kriel.

Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

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Jon Cardinelli