New look for Coetzee’s Springboks
Local is lekker as Bok starting 15 is full of in-form players based in South Africa
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.
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.