Injuries to South Africa's best flyhalves will force the new Springbok coach to think out of the box ahead of the three-Test series against Ireland, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Handré Pollard, Pat Lambie, and now Elton Jantjies. Three months into 2016, and three of South Africa's best flyhalves have been hit by injuries.
Pollard is unlikely to play again until 2017. Lambie hopes to return in time for the series against Ireland, but one wonders if he will be sharp enough to be considered for a starting berth.
Many feel that Jantjies should step into the breach this June. The Lions No 10 has been in commanding form during the early stages of the Super Rugby tournament. It is hoped that Jantjies will transfer his silky attacking and game management skills to the national side.
On Tuesday, reports emerged that Jantjies had fractured his wrist in the recent match against the Cheetahs and would need surgery. A subsequent visit to the specialist has revealed that the injury is not as bad as first thought, and that the Lions flyhalf may be fit for the next match against the Crusaders on 1 April.
Nevertheless, the reaction to the initial prognosis served to show how thin the Boks are in that crucial position.
SA Rugby will hold its annual general meeting on 1 April. A decision is expected regarding the appointment of the new Springbok coach. Allister Coetzee is the favourite for the position.
From the moment of his appointment, Coetzee will have little more than two months to plan for the series against Ireland and to scour South Africa and Europe for several suitable flyhalf options.
Lambie and Jantjies may yet feature in that series against Ireland. However, the Boks will need more than one flyhalf option in their match 23, and more than two in their greater squad.
Will Coetzee back younger players with little to no international experience, or will he revisit a couple of tried and tested options that his predecessor, Heyneke Meyer, utilised between 2012 and 2015?
Meyer was a big believer in the talent of Johan Goosen, so much so that he backed the then 20-year-old to start at No 10 against the Wallabies and All Blacks in 2012. In the ensuing years, however, Goosen has not started regularly at flyhalf for the Boks or his club, Racing 92.
Morné Steyn went to the 2015 World Cup as the Boks' third-string flyhalf. Wouldn't it be ironic if the 31-year-old veteran of 60 Tests, who may have felt that his Test career was over following the global tournament in England, was called back for the series against Ireland?
Given the short turnaround between his appointment and the start of the series itself, Coetzee may well look to familiar players and a more conservative game plan. It would surprise to see him going in the opposite direction and picking untried youngsters for this series.
Marnitz Boshoff was one of South Africa's form flyhalves in 2014, and rightly won a call-up for the home series against Wales and Scotland. Two years on, and he has fallen down the pecking order at the Lions. It was recently confirmed that Boshoff will further his career in Connacht in Ireland.
The Bulls are currently using Francois Brummer at No 10 in the absence of Pollard. The Sharks have shifted Joe Pietersen from fullback to flyhalf to offset the loss of Lambie. One cannot see Coetzee considering these journeymen as genuine Test flyhalf options.
The Stormers are down to their second-choice flyhalf following Robert du Preez's knee injury. Kurt Coleman has long played second fiddle at the Cape franchise (to Peter Grant, Demetri Catrakilis, and more recently to Du Preez). It would come as another surprise if Coetzee, who never backed Coleman as the first-choice flyhalf during his tenure as Stormers coach, suddenly selected him for the Bok squad.
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