Leyds, Louw can help Boks bounce back
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has shuffled the deckchairs, but is it too little too late on what appears to be a sinking ship, even if a mediocre Australia are dispatched in Bloemfontein on Saturday?
The inclusion of veteran flank Francois Louw, wing Dillyn Leyds and scrumhalf Ross Cronjé for Jean-Luc du Preez, Raymond Rhule and Francois Hougaard, respectively, appears to strengthen the team on paper, although it still feels far from a potentially great side.
Hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle is drafted on to the bench for his first cap since 2013 after serving a two-year ban for taking a metabolite of an anabolic steroid, drostanolone, while recovering from injury at French club Toulouse in 2014.
After the Springboks lost 57-0 to the All Blacks in Albany two weeks ago, it was inevitable that changes would come, especially in the case of Rhule whose 18 missed tackles in four Dillyn Leyds
matches was too poor to ignore any longer.
Leyds is a dazzling player, but will be asked tough defensive questions, while Cronjé’s return after missing the Albany debacle will add more direction and accuracy at halfback.
Coetzee bristled when asked about the apparent contradiction of backing Rhule on Monday, only to axe him on Tuesday.
“I’m very happy with Raymond Rhule, I haven’t discarded him and he will join us again on Sunday,” Coetzee said.
“One also has to understand that a player like Dillyn Leyds has been knocking on the door and playing well.
“There are certain boxes that Raymond does tick as a winger. His kick-chase is good, his cross cover is good and he moves well off his wing. But the reality is that he does have to work on his defence. With the process I’m following, it is time that I do look at what Dillyn can do and bring to this side.
“I’m not starting over with Dillyn, he’s been part of our group for some time. Why is it that when we want to build depth and capacity in our squad, people question it, but no one
complains when a team like the All Blacks do the same thing?
“We have a long-term approach in mind, but we also want to get results in 2017, so I’m looking at the wingers we have available to provide an opportunity to. It’s important that I am fair and give players a chance when it’s deserved.”
Louw’s experience and proven ability over the ball will be needed against a Wallaby team that includes the limpetlike Michael Hooper in the back row. It was an area the Boks edged in their clash in Perth three weeks ago, when the now injured Jaco Kriel enjoyed his best game in a Bok shirt. His presence was sorely missed a week later in New Zealand, so Louw’s return is a boost for the beleaguered Boks.
“The Aussie loose-forwards are very active on the field,” Louw said.
“Sean McMahon is a very good ball carrier and been very good for them so far this season and Hooper is a great player.
“Both on attack and defence, he gets around the park, but not to sound too cliché, we have to focus on our game. We need to stick to our systems on defence and shut down their attack.”
Wallaby coach Michael Cheika has made three changes to the side that comfortably saw off Argentina two weeks ago, as, like his South African counterpart, he searches for answers.
Lock Izack Rodda, flank Jack Dempsey and wing Marika Koroibete have all earned their first starting berths.
Rodda replaces Rob Simmons in the No 4 jersey, Dempsey comes in ahead of Ned Hanigan and Koroibete takes over from Henry Speight on the right wing.