‘Damian as physical as Rohan’

Allister Coetzee has backed his much-maligned centre contingent and said that the inclusion of Frans Steyn or Rohan Janse van Rensburg won't strengthen the team. JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg reports.

Last week, Coetzee named a 31-man squad for the home Tests against Australia and New Zealand. As expected, there were recalls for Pat Lambie, Willie le Roux, Lood de Jager and Julian Redelinghuys. The failure to bring in at least one powerful inside centre, however, raised a few eyebrows.

Coetzee is expected to make several changes to his starting side for the Test against Australia at Loftus Versfeld this Saturday. The Boks desperately need a win after losing their last three matches. It’s for this reason that ace goal-kicker Morné Steyn may crack the nod ahead of the misfiring Elton Jantjies.

It will be interesting to see who Coetzee selects in midfield. The combination of Damian de Allende and Lionel Mapoe failed to make the desired impact in the first five Tests of 2016. Juan de Jongh and Jesse Kriel were exposed, especially on defence, in the two Tests in Australasia.

On Monday, the Bok coach came out in defence of his squad selections. Coetzee feels that the Boks have the right mix of players in the No 12 and 13 positions. According to Coetzee, neither an experienced player of Steyn's calibre nor a robust youngster like Janse van Rensburg is needed at this point.

‘I’m happy with the centres we have at the moment,’ Coetzee said. ‘Juan de Jongh has brought a lot of energy to that position. Jesse Kriel defended well in that recent game against Australia.

‘Rohan enjoyed a wonderful Super Rugby competition with the Lions, and is probably on the radar [regarding selection for the overseas tour]. But I don’t get emotional when I assess players. I look at the stats. And if you consider what Rohan can do [as a physical player at the gainline], we have that in Damian at the moment.’

Coetzee also defended his back-row selections, stating that he is ‘happy with the balance of that combination at the moment’. If that is the case, then Francois Louw, Oupa Mohoje and Warren Whiteley will start against the Wallabies.

It would appear as if Coetzee is keen to stack his bench with forwards once again this weekend. Two loose forwards in Willem Alberts and Jaco Kriel could be asked to make an impact in the second half.

‘We want to use the Loftus factor to our advantage,’ said Coetzee. ‘I’m happy with the six-two split on the bench, and we will certainly be looking to lift our game later in the match.’

Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images

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Jon Cardinelli