Kitshoff set for Test debut

Allister Coetzee says there’s a strong chance that rookie prop Steven Kitshoff will make his Test debut for the Springboks against Ireland on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports from Port Elizabeth.

On Monday, the Bok coach confirmed that Duane Vermeulen (elbow), Warren Whiteley (shoulder) and Trevor Nyakane (ankle) are recovering from injuries sustained in the second Test against Ireland. Coetzee will make the call on the availability of these players for the third and decisive Test at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium following consultation with a specialist.

Coetzee said there’s a chance that Whiteley could be ready for non-contact training on Monday afternoon. Vermeulen and Nyakane, however, won’t take part in the session in Zwide.

This bodes well for the Boks’ situation at No 8. With regard to loosehead cover, Coetzee is likely to bring his third option into the match-day squad mix. If Nyakane does not recover sufficiently over the next few days, Kitshoff will be elevated to the bench and will be in line to make his debut against Ireland on Saturday.

‘Trevor is battling with that injury, so there’s a big chance that Steven could feature this Saturday,' Coetzee said.

‘I know a lot has been made of me bringing back Steven from his club [Bordeaux] in France and then not playing him [in the first two Tests against Ireland]. But I have always had a long-term plan for this player. I want him to eventually move back to South Africa, as I believe he can be an asset to this team in the next few years and even feature at the 2019 World Cup.’

When Coetzee was asked about the injuries to Vermeulen and Whiteley and the identity of his third-choice No 8, he admitted that it's something that he will need to finalise over the next few days.

At present, the Boks don’t have another No 8 specialist in the squad. Coetzee said on Monday that he will consider bringing players like Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Jaco Kriel into the starting mix if the situation demands it.

Notshe has started just once at No 8 for the Stormers this season. None of the remaining loose forwards in the squad, including Francois Louw and Siya Kolisi, have started there at Test level.

‘If Duane and Warren are not available, Notshe and Jaco will be considered to fill the gaps,’ said Coetzee. ‘Jaco has X factor and has to be tested at this level. That’s why he’s here. Should he get the opportunity, I’m confident he will be up for it. Notshe has played No 8 before.’

Coetzee confirmed that Kriel would be considered for the openside flank position and not at No 8. If Vermeulen and Whiteley are not available, and the green Notshe is not considered to start, Coetzee may look to move Louw or Kolisi to No 8. The former would appear to be the strongest candidate, as Coetzee believes a No 8 should be able to play to the ball.

Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images

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Jon Cardinelli