A talented loose trio will have a key role to play for South Africa A in Friday’s final clash against the England Saxons in George, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Last weekend, the SA A side succumbed to a disappointing 32-24 loss in Bloemfontein and the lack of cohesion between the makeshift team was clear to see. By contrast, the Saxons looked well organised and used their superior experience to effectively clinch the result in a dominant first half.
One would expect SA A to be much improved after another week together, while there have also been less disruptions this week, with the four Bok squad members remaining in camp with the national side rather than joining the A team midweek.
Having said that, coach Johan Ackermann has opted to make wholesale changes to the side primarily in order to allow all his squad members exposure against the Saxons and to have an opportunity to send out a reminder to Allister Coetzee about their abilities.
Despite the host of changes, one area where the SA A side should still offer plenty of threats is in the loose trio. Captain Oupa Mohoje is the one player who has retained his place in the starting lineup and will have an important ball-carrying role to play at blindside flank.
At No 8, Ackermann has been able to replace a Bok with a Bok as Nizaam Carr makes way for the talented Arno Botha, who is finally enjoying an extended injury-free run, and will be determined to make an impression against the Saxons.
Sikhumbuzo Notshe was the one standout performer last Friday but he has not been released by the Boks this week, with his place being taken by the equally talented Jean-Luc du Preez, who has consistently impressed for the Sharks throughout Super Rugby.
The Saxons have also made changes to their loose trio, which sees Dave Ewers come in on the flank and Don Armand moving to No 8, with the back-row battle sure to be an enthralling aspect of Friday’s encounter.
The forward pack selected for the SA A side certainly boasts a bit more physicality and grunt this week, with the likes of Jason Jenkins and Malcolm Marx coming into the mix, and it would be good to see Ackermann’s charges employ a more pragmatic approach in George.
They were simply far too loose against the Saxons in last weekend’s opening encounter, and a host of handling errors and basic mistakes enabled the England outfit to punish the South African side from turnover ball.
If SA A opt to play the percentages and adopt a more measured approach, which should be aided by the inclusion of steady Francois Brummer at flyhalf, they could level up the series and finally give South African rugby fans something to shout about.
South Africa A – 15 Leolin Zas, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter, 12 Lukhanyo Am, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Arno Botha, 7 Oupa Mohoje (c), 6 Jean-Luc du Preez, 5 RG Snyman, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Marcel van der Merwe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Thomas du Toit.
Subs: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Lizo Gqoboka, 19 JD Schickerling, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Ntando Kebe, 22 Howard Mnisi, 23 Travis Ismaiel.
England Saxons – 15 Mike Haley, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Nick Tompkins, 12 Ollie Devoto, 11 Christian Wade, 10 Danny Cipriani, 9 Dan Robson, 8 Don Armand, 7 Matt Kvesic, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Charlie Ewels, 4 Dave Attwood (c), 3 Kieran Brookes, 2 Tommy Taylor, 1 Alec Hepburn.
Subs: 16 George McGuigan, 17 Ross Harrison, 18 Jake Cooper-Woolley, 19 Mitch Lees, 20 Sam Jones, 21 Micky Young, 22 Sam Hill, 23 Sam James.
Referee: Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Quinton Immelman (South Africa), Egon Seconds (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images