• Goosen to front Pumas

    Johan Goosen is set to start at fullback for the Springboks against Argentina at the Mbombela Stadium on Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Nelspruit.

    Bok coach Allister Coetzee is expected to make at least four changes to the side that started against Ireland in Port Elizabeth two months ago. The most significant of these changes will be in the back division, with two players featuring for the first time in 2016.

    Earlier on Monday, Coetzee said that tighthead prop Julian Redelinghuys was in line to replace the injured Frans Malherbe. The Bok coach hinted that blindside flank Oupa Mohoje was the frontrunner to stand in for the crocked Siya Kolisi. Other loose forwards such as Duane Vermeulen (knee injury) and Schalk Burger (club commitments) are unavailable at present.

    The changes to the backline will be tactical rather than injury-enforced. Fullback Willie le Roux and wing JP Pietersen weren’t considered for the Rugby Championship squad due to reasons other than injury. At the time of the squad announcement, Coetzee said that the two players needed a break from competitive rugby.

    The Boks trained in front of a vocal crowd at the Mbombela Stadium on Monday afternoon. Habana ran on the left wing, and Goosen at fullback.

    Habana has not played for the Boks since the World Cup third-place playoff against Argentina last October. He was not available for the Boks’ recent series against Ireland due to his push to make the Bliztboks’ squad for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. Ultimately, the decorated fifteens player fell short of his sevens goal.

    Goosen began his international career at flyhalf in 2012. He featured once for the Boks at fullback against Italy in late 2014. That match in Padua marks the last time he played for the Boks.

    Goosen has, however, enjoyed success with Racing 92 in subsequent years, albeit in the position of outside centre.

    Coetzee was cagey when asked about his preferred option at No 15. While Goosen spent most of Monday’s session at fullback, Jesse Kriel was also afforded some time in the position.

    Coetzee did provide a clue when he said that South Africa needs to improve their kicking game. The Boks were outplayed in that department in the recent series against Ireland. It is hoped that the big right boot of Goosen will provide the Boks with some balance and impetus in the Rugby Championship.

    ‘I’ve said it before, we have to improve our overall kicking game,’ said the Bok coach. ‘It’s not just one thing that we need to get right, it’s the personnel, the plan, and the execution of that plan.

    ‘[In terms of the first point] we went into the first Test against Ireland with four left-footed kickers in our backline [Faf de Klerk, Elton Jantjies, Lwazi Mvovo and Willie le Roux] and Ireland exploited that well. We need to get the balance right in the coming weeks.’

    Probable Bok team – 15 Johan Goosen, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Beast Mtawarira.

    Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP Photo

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    Jon Cardinelli