Fresh faced Boks to tackle French

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has announced his squad to take on Fance as part of the incoming tour in June. Coetzee headlied the sqaud with the announcemnet of a new captain, Warren Whiteley to lead a young side back to the top. Coetzee has also announced a very strong SA A side to take on the on the French Barbarians around the same time.

Whiteley has proven himself to be one of the best and most humble leaders in Super Rugby over the past couple of seasons. No one is questioning his leadership ability, or his ability to join together a group and lead by example. There are, however, a few question marks surrounding his place ahead of Duane Vermeulen as starting eighth man. Vermeulen is not necissarily a better eighth man than Whiteley,they are simply two different styles of loose forward. By appointing Whiteley as captain, Coetzee has laid out his statement of intent to focus on a more wide, attacking style of play. Whiteley is a great choice for this style of play, as he has shown with the Lions in Super Rugby that he is capable of linking well with the forwards and the backs, and his sevens skills and experience allow him to be an extra running option out wide.

Vermeulen, on the other hand, is the stereotypical, powerful South African eighth man. He boasts strong defence, powerful ball-carrying in close quarters, and can be a menace at the breakdown. This suggests that he could be the answer to the questions surrounding the lack of muscle and a fetcher in South African loose forwards this year, if he is played at 7 alongside captain Whiteley. That being said, Vermeulen will only join up with the Boks next week, and as such, is likely not to feature in the first test in Pretoria. So who will run out for the first test?

Jaco Kriel is the obvious choice to wear number 6, as he has out and out pace, power, and has improved his fetching portfolio over the last season. Kriel is touted as being in competition for the jersey with Siya Kolisi, however, I do not believe that Coetzee should have to choose between the two, as Kolisi can fill in at number 7. Kolisi has the power and rucking acumen that Kriel lacks, and Kolisi can provide good cover for the more mobile and linking Lions loose forwards. This would likely leave either Oupa Mahoje or Jean-Luc du Preez to cover the loose forwards from the bench.

The front row looks to be largely settled, however, I believe that Tendai Mtawarira is lucky to be in the squad. Mtawarira’s scrummaging technique has been found wanting over the past few seasons, his ball carrying is not the exciting prospect it was in 2009 and his defence is often woeful. For exactly the opposite reasons, Ox Nche should feel very hard-done-by as he has proven this season that he has good open field skills, his scrumming matches up with international opposition, and he has the power and determination on both attack and defence that the Beast has been lacking over the past few seasons. Ruan Dreyer’s inclusion shows that Coetzee has rewarded form. Perhaps a front row of Nche, Malcolm Marx and Dreyer would be a dominant line up that could more than match up to that of the French. However, as Nche has been placed in the SA A side, I would suggest that Kitshoff should start alongside Dreyer and Marx, with Mtawarira applying his experience in the closing stages of the match.

The lock set up is to be as expected, with Eben Etzebeth and Piter-Steph du Toit occupying the no. 4 and 5 jerseys. De Jager is lucky to be given a chance in the Springbok squad, given his terrible form for the lackluster Bulls this season. As such, Franco Mostert, who has the most lineout steals in the entire competition this season, should at the very least be given the bench spot ahead of the former Cheetahs lock.

The Backline, however is much more difficult to discuss. At scrum half, there are no real standout performers this season, as South African scrum halves have been mediocre at best. Ross Cronje has developed his game to be more balanced between tactical decision making, kicking and sniping runs, however he still needs find his X-factor. Cobus Reinach does not make many costly errors, however he lacks inspiration on attack, and seldom looks to think creatively and play what is in front of him. Rudy Paige is fortunate to be in the side, as he has done little to impress in a Bulls outfit in need of serious redirection. It is for all these reasons that Francois Hougaard should start at 9 in the opening clash with the French. He has fiery pace, a solid tactical boot, and his decision making on the ball has been good. He will also provide some much needed experience in a very inexperienced backline.

Outside Hougaard, there is only one choice at flyhalf, as Elton Jantjies is the only out and out flyhalf picked in the squad. Jantjies has proven this season in Super Rugby that his boot is no longer an issue, and although he has been found wanting on defence once or twice, he has never backed down from bigger attackers. On attack, he has shown time and time again that he is extremely good on the gainline. He attacks space, has a great skill set, and even crashes the ball up if he has no runners to distribute to.

The real trouble comes in the form of the other backs in the Springbok squad. As the only specialist left wing in the squad, Courtnall Skosan is most likely to run out wearing number 11, while it is a toss-up between Dillyn Leyds and Raymond Rhule on the right wing. Couple this with the incredibly strong possibility of Andries Coetzee making his debut at fullback and you have a back three with exactly zero international test caps across the board.

Realistically, Jesse Kriel will run out wearing 15, however, he has been listed as a centre by SARU. Ruan Combrinck, who has not had that many test matches himself, could have been included despite his recent return from a long injury. Combrinck would provide some much needed power in the back three, and slightly more experience on the right wing than Leyds or Rhule. That being said, a player coming back from injury should be given time to ease back into full competition. It is for this reason that the inclusion of Damian de Allende in the Bok squad is questionable. He has similarly recently returned from injury and should be given time in the SA A side to prove himself alongside Combrinck.

The lack of established centre combination in the Bok squad is glaring. Kriel and De Allende, despite playing together under Heyneke Meyer, do not compliment one another, and I believe that Kriel should be played at fullback. Thus, Francois Steyn should be the answer to the Bok prayers at 12, as he can provide calming experience, good power and general ball skills, and has played consistantly well for Montpellier at inside centre for the past couple of seasons. His outside centre should compliment his skillset, which is why Lionel Mapoe and Jan Serfontein are the only real contenders for the outside centre role. With the back three looking as green as it does, logic would dictate that Serfontein start at 13 as he has some international experience.

The SA A squad looks like it could be very competitive with the proper structure and gameplan. Under Johan Ackermann, they should pull out a series win over the French Barbarians. With so many capped Springboks in the squad, the SA A side seems like it is Coetzee’s testing side for combinations that he could use at a higher level come 2019.

Possible SA A 23:

  1. Ox Nche
  2. Franco Marais
  3. Trevor Nyakane
  4. Andries Ferreira
  5. Jason Jenkins
  6. Chris Cloete
  7. Uzair Cassiem
  8. Sikhombuzo Notshe
  9. Dewalt Duvenage
  10. Lionel Cronje
  11. Jamba Ulengo
  12. Harold Vorster
  13. Juan de Jongh
  14. Ruan Combrinck
  15. Warrick Gelant
  16. Ramone Samuels
  17. Thomas du Toit
  18. Wilco Louw
  19. Ruan Botha
  20. Andise Ntsila
  21. Jano Vermaak
  22. Fred Zeilinga
  23. Makazole Mapimpi

Possible Springbok 23:

  1. Steven Kitshoff
  2. Malcolm Marx
  3. Ruan Dreyer
  4. Eben Etzebeth
  5. Pieter-Steph du Toit
  6. Jaco Kriel
  7. Siya Kolisi
  8. Warren Whiteley (Captain)
  9. Francois Hougaard
  10. Elton Jantjies
  11. Courtnall Skosan
  12. Francois Steyn
  13. Jan Serfontein
  14. Dillyn Leyds
  15. Jesse Kriel
  16. Bongi Mbonambi
  17. Tendai Mtawarira
  18. Lizo Gqoboka
  19. Franco Mostert
  20. Jean-Luc du Preez
  21. Ross Cronje
  22. Andries Coetzee
  23. Lionel Mapoe

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