ROOKIE PLAY­ERS NEED TO DE­LIVER

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT -

A Spring­bok team that has been picked largely on form, but there’s also a good deal of in­surance in cer­tain se­lec­tions made by coach Al­lis­ter Coet­zee.

Whether this side is good enough to beat France at Lof­tus Vers­feld to­mor­row is up for de­bate. We’ll only know how good this 23-man side is af­ter the 80 min­utes. What we do know is that they’re in for one hel­luva Test match.

The Boks are un­der pres­sure to start well af­ter the dis­as­ter of the 2016 sea­son, there are a bunch of new­com­ers in the mix and as Coet­zee stated yes­ter­day, “this is a new be­gin­ning”. If truth be told, we ac­tu­ally don’t know what we’re go­ing to get from this Boks side.

All we can judge them on right now is the form the in­di­vid­u­als will take into the Test and how well, or not, they may per­form. So let’s look at this team.

First off, the back-three are a ma­jor con­cern. An­dries Coet­zee, Ray­mond Rhule and Court­nall Skosan are qual­ity play­ers for their fran­chises and have shown their at­tack­ing skills in Su­per Rugby for a few years now and they all de­serve their chance ... whether they de­serve that chance at the same time, with all of them on de­but, is an­other mat­ter.

They’re all nugget, gritty play­ers, who play with heart and soul, but they’re also small and they’re likely to be pep­pered with the high ball. De­fen­sively, there are ques­tion marks around Rhule and we can only hope he has a blinder in the tack­ling depart­ment.

Jan Ser­fontein and Jesse Kriel are a strong and ex­cit­ing mid­field pair­ing ... they’re both good go­ing for­ward and they’re not eas­ily breached in de­fence, so there are no prob­lems there.

At least Coet­zee has picked a 9-10 com­bi­na­tion in Ross Cronje and El­ton Jan­tjies that is fa­mil­iar with each other and, boy, don’t these two men play well when they’re on the front foot. Add War­ren White­ley at eight and you have a cru­cial 8-9-10 com­bi­na­tion that will drive the team for­ward.

It can only be hoped that Oupa Mo­hoje and Siya Kolisi com­ple­ment that go-for­ward plan. The six and seven picked by Coet­zee are qual­ity op­er­a­tors, but play­ing them to­gether is a gam­ble. They’re so sim­i­lar ... there is no big ball-car­rier be­tween them, a man who’ll take the ball up, and nei­ther man is re­ally a fetcher. If the game is played at a quick pace a player like Jaco Kriel would have been ideal.

The lock pair­ing re­ally picks it­self and it’s great Coet­zee has gone for Franco Mostert.

In the front row Mal­colm Marx was the only real op­tion at hooker – he has been out­stand­ing for the Lions and plays like a loose-for­ward – while Beast Mtawarira brings plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence to the set-up. Frans Mal­herbe is rather for­tu­nate to have cracked the nod ahead of Ruan Dreyer at tight­head; the Lions man was cer­tainly the stand­out No 3 in Su­per Rugby. He doesn’t even make the bench, which is a pity.

On the bench there’s great fire-power in the likes of Jean-Luc du Preez, Fran­cois Hougaard, Frans Steyn and Dil­lyn Leyds. They could re­ally make an im­pact when the French start run­ning out of gas, but it would have been nice to see Du Preez and Steyn be­ing slot­ted into the start­ing team some­where.

It’s a Bok team with a Lions spine run­ning through it – hooker, eighth­man, scrumhalf, 10, and 15 – which is cru­cial and there could be some won­der­ful at­tack­ing play. It’s a team that should also ex­cite the fans, but the key to this team play­ing an ex­cit­ing brand of rugby, and win­ning, is whether the young rook­ies are able to de­liver.

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