Boks must bounce back

For­get the Al­bany mas­sacre quickly to get bet­ter of Wal­la­bies

Sunday Tribune - - SPORT -

Jac­ques van der Westhuyzen

THEY’RE com­ing off a 57-0 Rugby Cham­pi­onship hid­ing and des­per­ate to show they’re not that bad, but don’t ex­pect Spring­bok coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee to make whole­sale changes to the team that crashed to the All Blacks just over a week ago.

Coet­zee, who will tell you he prefers to see a glass half full rather than half empty, seemed to still find pos­i­tives from that maul­ing in Al­bany, New Zealand, a week ago even though the Boks con­ceded eight tries, didn’t score a point, crum­bled in the scrums, col­lapsed in the li­ne­outs, failed to threaten the op­po­si­tion line and slipped off tack­les as if the All Blacks play­ers had grease on their jer­seys.

It was a hu­mil­i­at­ing day for the Boks and for the his­tory of Test rugby in this coun­try.

But as cap­tain Eben Etze­beth said ex­actly a week ago when he led his team back into the coun­try at OR Tambo In­ter­na­tional, it was the first de­feat the team have suf­fered this year and that hope­fully, it was a one-off bad day at the of­fice.

True. The Boks, un­til last Satur­day, had shown signs of pro­gres­sion af­ter the dis­as­ters of 2016, win­ning three times against France, twice against Ar­gentina and draw­ing with Aus­tralia in Perth.

Over­all, it’s still been a pretty good run in 2017 for Coet­zee and his Boks, but los­ing 57-0 to the All Blacks al­most wipes out the “good”, with the whole sea­son vir­tu­ally re­ly­ing on what hap­pens now at home against Aus­tralia and New Zealand, and then on the Novem­ber tour of Europe.

First up for the Boks in Bloem­fontein on Satur­day are the Wal­la­bies, a side Coet­zee’s team drew 23-all with a fort­night ago.

It’s a match the Boks will feel they should’ve and could’ve won, but they’ll rue a poor first half when there was sim­ply too much kick­ing by the visi­tors.

They’ll back them­selves to get the win in Bloem­fontein, but then they’re go­ing to have to put be­hind them the Al­bany dis­as­ter as quickly as pos­si­ble.

Rep­u­ta­tions took a beat­ing last week­end, among them wing Ray­mond Rhule, who’s copped plenty of flak for nine missed tack­les; hooker Mal­colm Marx for miss­ing his line-out men; props Ruan Dreyer and Trevor Nyakane, scrumhalf Fran­cois Hougaard, and the en­tire back row of Uzair Cassiem, Jean-luc du Preez and Siya Kolisi, who were com­pre­hen­sively out­played by their op­po­site num­bers.

Hougaard has sub­se­quently been booted out of the squad, with the Sharks’ Louis Schreuder com­ing in, even though he’s un­likely to fea­ture in the next two weeks, while the ad­di­tion of winger S’bu Nkosi gives Coet­zee an ex­tra op­tion among his out­side backs.

Veteran flank Fran­cois Louw is also back, com­ing in for the in­jured Jaco Kriel.

So who will Coet­zee turn to to help re­store Bok pride?

He’s not likely to make sweeping changes, which will re­sult in An­dries Coet­zee re­main­ing at full­back, with the cen­tre pair­ing of Jan Ser­fontein and Jesse Kriel also stay­ing in­tact.

El­ton Jan­tjies is sure to re­main at 10, but a healthy Ross Cronje will re­turn at scrumhalf, with pos­si­bly Rudy Paige as his back-up.

Who plays on the wings is any­one’s guess, but it wouldn’t be a sur­prise if Dil­lyn Leyds came in on the left in place of Rhule, the Western Prov­ince man bring­ing size, pace and X-fac­tor to the back-three.

At only 21 and still raw, Nkosi is un­likely to start, but he might get a look in on the bench.

Up front, there could be sev­eral changes, or very few. Louw, with all his ex­pe­ri­ence, size and ball-win­ning abil­ity on the ground, is al­most cer­tain to start at open­side flank, with Kolisi at seven.

Cassiem, see­ing that the match is on his home patch and he hasn’t re­ally done any­thing wrong to be dropped, may re­main at No8, but Coet­zee will also con­sider pow­er­ful Sharks man Daniel du Preez.

Etze­beth will lead the side at No4 lock, but any one of Franco Mostert, Lood de Jager or Pi­eter-steph du Toit could fill the No5 slot and do the call­ing. Mostert will be des­per­ate to make up for the com­mu­ni­ca­tion er­rors made in Al­bany, but his start­ing is no guar­an­tee.

Then there’s the front row. Is it time to hand Steven Kit­shoff, hugely im­pres­sive off the bench, a start ahead of Beast Mtawarira, and also see what Bongi Mbonambi and Chili­boy Rale­pelle bring to the set-up at hooker?

Leav­ing out the pow­er­ful and bril­liant ball-scav­eng­ing hooker that is Marx would be un­fair, es­pe­cially af­ter just one poor line-out show­ing in New Zealand when there are more peo­ple than just the hooker at play in the No2 find­ing his jumpers.

And with the Boks’ three first choice tight­head props side­lined, it’s a mat­ter of go­ing with Ruan Dreyer, de­spite him not con­vinc­ing at Test level, Trevor Nyakane, who’s ac­tu­ally a loose­head, or the un­tried but hugely promis­ing Wilco Louw.

Ex­pect the lat­ter to get a crack, but how Coet­zee must wish for a Ju­lian Redel­inghuys, Frans Mal­herbe or Coe­nie Oosthuizen.

There’s plenty for Coet­zee and his as­sis­tants to pon­der in the com­ing days. Most of all though, he dare not lose to the Wal­la­bies, not with the All Blacks wait­ing for the Boks in Cape Town, where it’ll be “neu­tral ground” in the match that may make or break Coet­zee and his Boks of 2017.

SQUAD

Backs: An­dries Coet­zee, Dil­lyn Leyds, Ray­mond Rhule, Court­nall Skosan, S’bu Nkosi, Damian de Al­lende, Jesse Kriel, Jan Ser­fontein, Han­dre Pol­lard, El­ton Jan­tjies, Ross Cronje, Rudy Paige, Louis Schreuder For­wards: Uzair Cassiem, Dan du Preez, Jean-luc du Preez, Siya Kolisi, Fran­cois Louw, Franco Mostert, Lood de Jager, Pi­eter-steph du Toit, Eben Etze­beth, Ruan Dreyer, Wilco Louw, Trevor Nyakane, Beast Mtawarira, Steven Kitschoff, Mal­colm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Chili­boy Rale­pelle

PIC­TURE: BACKPAGEPIX

Fly­ing wing S’bu Nkosi has been re­warded for his out­stand­ing sea­son with the Sharks this year by be­ing called up to the Spring­bok squad to pre­pare for the Rugby Cham­pi­onship match against Aus­tralia, which takes place in Bloem­fontein on Satur­day. Sup­port­ing him, above, against Gri­quas at Kings Park in Dur­ban on Au­gust 4, is veteran hooker Chili­boy Rale­pelle, who also got a Bok squad nod.

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