CRAIG LEWIS looks at three key positions where the Springboks could consider making changes for Saturday’s Test against the Wallabies in Brisbane.
Although Rassie Erasmus has said there will not be as many changes as had been planned prior to the Boks’ surprise loss to Argentina, there are still a few subtle alterations that can be expected as they go in search of a more fluent performance.
Erasmus has already admitted to mulling over the balance of the loose trio following the battle in Mendoza. The absence of back-row bruiser Duane Vermeulen has been keenly felt at the start of the Rugby Championship, and it’s quite likely that the Boks will look to add an alternative physical presence to proceedings this Saturday.
That’s quite likely to come in the formidable form of Pieter-Steph du Toit, who was one of the few players who enhanced his reputation with an impactful performance off the bench against Argentina. The 26-year-old has made it clear that he has increasingly come to prefer playing flank over lock, with his athleticism and work rate having improved significantly since making this transition more permanent.
The inclusion of Du Toit at No 7 would also provide the Boks with an additional lineout option, while allowing Siya Kolisi to shift back to openside flank, where he looked more comfortable during the three-Test series against England.
When Erasmus touched on the omission of Jesse Kriel for the Boks’ Rugby Championship opener, he explained that the plan was always for him to receive another opportunity down the line. After recently turning out for the Blue Bulls in a Currie Cup game, Kriel is now back in the Bok mix, and one wonders whether his superior Test experience could see him offered another shot at the No 13 jersey.
There doesn’t seem to be too much separating Kriel and Lukhanyo Am at the moment, with the latter producing an up and down performance in Durban and Mendoza respectively.
Should Kriel crack the nod for a rotational change at outside centre, though, then it may prompt a double change in the midfield. Damian de Allende and Kriel have started nine previous Tests as a centre combination, and so of course there could be a case for reuniting this duo.
This remains another position that is still up for grabs. Erasmus has interestingly backed Frans Malherbe to start in the last four Tests for the Boks, but there does still seem to be some work to do on his conditioning following a lengthy injury lay-off.
Although Malherbe does seem to have found himself at the top of the pecking order at tighthead prop, a supreme scrummager such as Wilco Louw is surely frothing for another opportunity after starting in the series-opener against England, before missing out on the rest of the series.
Nevertheless, he made a positive impression when he came off the bench in Mendoza, while he showed his international class with a dominant performance for Western Province last Friday. You get the impression that Louw certainly wouldn’t let the Boks down if handed an overdue start, and it can’t be forgotten that Thomas du Toit still awaits his first run-on appearance at Test level.
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