Coetzee happy to keep Bok changes to a minimum
EBEN Etzebeth will in all probability continue with the captaincy duties in Warren Whiteley’s absence, but who takes over the Springbok No 8 jersey is not so clear cut.
Whiteley’s groin injury – picked up in the second Test against France in June and which forced him out of the third Test and the Lions’ Super Rugby playoffs – has left the eighthman sidelined for the foreseeable future.
Etzebeth captained the Boks in the third Test and is likely to continue in the role until Whiteley returns to the national team, but Jean-Luc du Preez, who deputised at eighthman in the third Test against France at Ellis Park, is not likely to stay in that role when the Rugby Championship starts next weekend.
At Ellis Park, Du Preez played at eight, Siya Kolisi was at six and Jaco Kriel came in at seven.
However, with Oupa Mohoje back in the mix and Uzair Cassiem and Jean-Luc’s brother, Dan, now also in the Bok squad, the make-up of the loose-trio could be a little different to what we saw in the third Test.
Also, the inclusion of the exciting Warrick Gelant gives coach Allister Coetzee a few options in the back three, while he’ll also keep a close eye on flyhalf Handre Pollard, who’s battled injuries for nearly two years. The good news is Sharks star Curwin Bosch finally cracks the squad after missing out in June to play for the Junior Boks and he, too, will be considered at fullback and flyhalf, further strengthening the squad.
The biggest surprise in the squad is the omission of Lions wing Ruan Combrinck. He is unfortunate to miss out after returning from injury and showing in the past few weeks what he could offer the national team in terms of raw pace and strength out wide. He’s also an outstanding defender and kicks superbly off both feet.
Coetzee will again consider Raymond Rhule, Courtnall Skosan and Dillyn Leyds on the wings.
The Bok squad will gather in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday to start preparations for the first Test of the Rugby Championship, against Argentina on August 19.
Coetzee said he was pleased he was able to keep changes to the squad to a minimum.
“All of the Springboks who were in action in the June Tests and the latter part of the Super Rugby campaign played very well and I have no doubt they will bring that form with them when we assemble,” explained Coetzee.
“Some players have initially missed out on selection due to various reasons, but this squad is not cast in stone and changes can be made as we progress through the tournament.
“I always said it must be difficult for a player to force himself into the squad, and I am really pleased that through their performances they have again earned selection to the Springbok group.”
Coetzee added he was fully aware the challenge posed by the Rugby Championship teams would be far more difficult than that Boks faced against France in June.
“We will have to work even harder to meet these tough challenges against the Pumas, Wallabies and All Blacks. Thorough preparation is once again crucial to our campaign and I am therefore pleased we could manage to work with some of the players in Stellenbosch last week as those players would have been out of action for almost a month by the time we assemble in Port Elizabeth.”
BACKS: Warrick Gelant, Andries Coetzee, Curwin Bosch, Raymond Rhule, Courtnall Skosan, Dillyn Leyds, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein, Damian de Allende, Francois Venter, Handre Pollard, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje, Francois Hougaard, Rudy Paige
FORWARDS: Dan du Preez, Uzair Cassiem, Jean-Luc du Preez, Siya Kolisi, Jaco Kriel, Oupa Mohoje, Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Franco Mostert, Lizo Gqoboka, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Malcolm Marx, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Bongi Mbonambi