A loose-trio combination of Marcell Coetzee, Siya Kolisi and Duane Vermeulen would offer great value in the Springboks’ World Cup opener against the All Blacks, writes former Bok hooker JAMES DALTON.
Following the first two matches of the Springboks’ shortened Rugby Championship, Rassie Erasmus and his management should have a decent idea of the 15 players they want to be sending to open the World Cup campaign against the All Blacks – but, more importantly the eight up front, who will decide how this match plays out.
The best front row we can put out would have Steven Kitshoff shouldering up next to Malcolm Marx and partnering with either Trevor Nyakane or Vincent Koch.
Kitshoff has a done a fantastic job in slowly taking over the reins from Beast Mtawarira in the last few years, and I am an avid supporter of Marx’s impact. Not only as an explosive ball-carrier and defensive unit, but as an integral cog in the Springboks’ breakdown machine.
The tighthead position, promisingly, is strongly contested but I believe Trevor Nyakane offers more impact in terms of versatility, while Koch’s strength is in his scrummaging. Either way, the front row would not be at a loss.
South Africa in 2019, in sync with our rugby history, is spoilt for choice with locks. My starting combination would be Eben Etzebeth at No 4, as he commands authority and has an incredible physical presence, with Franco Mostert to complement him at 5, with his athleticism, work rate and defensive acuity.
While I believe RG Snyman can offer a lot, he needs to put his 117kg to better use, and be effective in his physicality on defence and at the breakdown. He is often found falling off his feet and putting his mass to use off the ball, rather than towards it.
Unfortunately, Siya Kolisi hasn’t seen any game time in the green and gold this year, but his first year as Bok captain and some superb Vodacom Super Rugby performances earlier in the year secure him the blindside position in my team.
This is unfortunate for Pieter-Steph Du Toit, as he simply cannot offer the openside role that is left vacant by playing Kolisi on the blind, and I believe the best bet to fill this specialist position would be Marcell Coetzee.
However, Pieter-Steph’s impact lies in his versatility and I would be quick to bring him into the game in the second half, either at lock or in the open.
Duane Vermuelen commands an unmatched physical presence at the back of the scrum, but more subtly is hugely important in the Springboks’ defensive organisation and winning ball at the breakdown.
Among Vermuelen, Marx and Coetzee, the Boks would then field a pack that could dominate the breakdown and turnover rate – an incredibly important disruptive aspect, especially when playing the All Blacks, whose style of play relies on quick ball and fluidity from the breakdown.
While I believe these are the eight players best suited to open our campaign and unsettle the All Black heavies for the first 40 minutes, we are fortunate to have ironed out players and combinations that would fit seamlessly into the mould of the pack and the style of play were any of them to see injuries.
And we must bear in mind that certain selections will be made on the bench for the specific roles that these players will offer against tired legs and once the game has opened up in the final 30 minutes.
The pack I’d pick: 1 Steven Kitshoff, 2 Malcolm Marx, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 5 Franco Mostert, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 7 Siya Kolisi, 8 Duane Vermeulen.
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