New look for Coet­zee’s Spring­boks

Lo­cal is lekker as Bok start­ing 15 is full of in-form play­ers based in South Africa

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - VATA NGOBENI

IN THE many man­i­fes­ta­tions of what his dream start­ing line-up would look like in the first Test match against France, Spring­bok coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee would have never en­vis­aged hand­ing out four de­buts and hav­ing a lo­cally-based out­fit run­ning out at Lof­tus Vers­feld.

How­ever, the re­al­ity of how the Lions play­ers have per­formed in Su­per Rugby, how some of the se­nior play­ers have showed a will­ing­ness to con­trib­ute and the way in which the Spring­boks want to play this sea­son and be­yond is a far cry from Coet­zee’s ideal dream team.

Coet­zee, though, is not com­plain and in fact is a happy man as he has re­warded form and al­lowed in a breath of fresh air into a team that was not only strug­gling with its iden­tity on and off the field but they were in des­per­ate need of get­ting that win­ning feel­ing back.

“It has been very tight calls and it’s been tough to select the team for the first Test. If you look at the first 15 all those play­ers have per­formed well in Su­per Rugby, showed good form and trained very well in the past two weeks. It wasn’t easy but I had to start some­where and make a se­lec­tion and that was the call. Some might feel a bit un­lucky not to be start­ing or in the 23 but I’m so happy with the way it is much nar­rower than be­fore. These play­ers are re­ally push­ing for po­si­tions and it’s a good po­si­tion to be in,” Coet­zee said at yes­ter­day’s team an­nounce­ment in Pre­to­ria.

The bulk of Coet­zee’s start­ing team is right­fully made up of Lions play­ers, seven to be ex­act, in­clud­ing de­buts for full­back An­dries Coet­zee, wing Court­nall Skosan and scrumhalf Ross Cronje.

Such is the in­flu­ence of the win­ning rugby the Lions are play­ing that even lock Franco Mostert gets a rare start along­side Eben Etze­beth in the sec­ond row and will form a spine of the pack with Mal­colm Marx at hooker and cap­tain War­ren White­ley at No 8 with El­ton Jan­tjies at 10.

“It is great to have that be­cause you need to have calm heads, guys who un­der­stand their roles and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and they would be the most im­por­tant guys when things get tough. It is not go­ing to be easy this Test, it is go­ing to be a mas­sive Test match but it is nice to look at some­one who you have played to­gether. War­ren will rely on those de­ci­sion mak­ers ob­vi­ously but also rely on Siya Kolisi and an Etze­beth, those are the lead­ers in the team and a Beast (Mtawarira) be­ing there. I just feel that we have a good syn­ergy in the team,” Coet­zee said.

Over and above the in­flu­ence the Lions’ style of play will have in the man­ner in which the Spring­boks want to play, Coet­zee has also opted for a bulky loose trio with Oupa Mo­hoje mak­ing a re­turn at blind­side flank with his abra­sive­ness on de­fence, thun­der­ous ball car­ry­ing abil­i­ties and op­tion at the back of the li­ne­out.

At the same time Coet­zee re­sisted the temp­ta­tion to go with Jaco Kriel at open­side flank as the Lions man is in the fi­nal phase of his re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

“They are bat­tle hard­ened guys, they’ve trained and played for two weeks. If you look at those three loose for­wards in terms of what we want. We want to have a good line-out op­tion and we know War­ren is great line-out op­tion but we need a fourth one with Mo­hoje who has been good at that. Oupa, what he brings de­fen­sively,has been very good. Kolisi is a big car­rier and also plays a sim­i­lar role on the ground play­ing to­wards the ball on at­tack and turn­ing the ball over. It is a much of a much­ness, I think it is a good bal­ance,” Coet­zee added.

When it comes to the mid­field pair­ing of Jan Ser­fontein and Jesse Kriel, Coet­zee has gone for ex­pe­ri­ence with the Bulls duo.

Mean­while, France have named a new-look side with 11 changes from that which played in their last Six Na­tions en­counter against Wales with lock Yoann Maestri set to lead the side.

PIC­TURE: BACKPAGE P IX

FRESH START: Al­lis­ter Coet­zee has rung the changes for the Spring­boks as he tries to put a hor­ri­ble 2016 be­hind him and be­gin with a bang.

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