Allister Coetzee is set to back a Lions-laden Springbok side – and hand Ruan Dreyer a Test debut – in the third match against France on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg reports.
Coetzee picked seven Lions to start the first match of the series at Loftus Versfeld. A week later, the Bok coach backed eight Lions to start at Kings Park. The Boks went on to win both matches by convincing margins.
Two of the Lions players who featured in Durban won’t have the opportunity to play in front of their home crowd this Saturday. Ross Cronjé has been ruled out of the third Test due to concussion. The return of Jesse Kriel from injury has seen Lionel Mapoe sent back to the SA A side.
And yet, the loss of Cronjé and Mapoe is unlikely to reduce the Lions representation at Ellis Park this Saturday. In fact, Coetzee looks set to name eight Lions players in his match-day 23.
Dreyer is expected to make his Test debut in the front row. Flanker Jaco Kriel should be on the bench.
Meanwhile, Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Warren Whiteley, Franco Mostert and Malcolm Marx are in line to start for the third consecutive time this year.
Francois Hougaard will fill the void left by Cronjé. The game against France on Saturday should mark Hougaard’s first start at No 9 for the Boks since November 2014.
Oupa Mohoje has been ruled out with concussion and should be replaced by Jean-Luc du Preez. The back-row combination of Siya Kolisi, Du Preez and Whiteley have finished the past two Tests, so cohesion shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
France may be without a key ball-carrier and defender this weekend. Word from the French camp in Durban is that No 8 Louis Picamoles has been battling a knee injury and may not be fit to play at Ellis Park.
The big question is whether France, as a collective, will have the desire and the energy to match the Boks on the highveld this Saturday. They have nothing to play for but pride, as the series has already been won by South Africa.
There should be at least one other change to the Bok bench. Rudy Paige will take Hougaard’s place among the reserves.
It remains to be seen whether Coetzee will give the likes of hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, prop Lizo Gqoboka, or even the 2015 SA Rugby Player of the Year Lood de Jager an opportunity this Saturday. Earlier this week, Coetzee said that he would not be making wholesale changes.
Coetzee will confirm the Bok match-day 23 at 14:00 on Thursday.
Probable Boks – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Jaco Kriel, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Dillyn Leyds.
Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images