The Springbok pack could feature three changes for Saturday’s Test against the All Blacks in Albany, while Dan du Preez may make his debut off the bench, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
In the lead-up to the Boks’ biggest Test of the year, Allister Coetzee would have been desperately hoping for minimal disruptions. Instead, those plans have been scuppered with injuries to key forwards Jaco Kriel and Coenie Oosthuizen.
Kriel hasn’t necessarily stolen the headlines during the four Tests he has started this year, but his mobility, work-rate and presence at the breakdown has been key to the Boks’ success.
Meanwhile, Oosthuizen has breathed new life into his career after slotting back into the Bok starting lineup with seamless efficiency, but he will not feature again in the Rugby Championship after breaking his arm last Saturday.
Both injuries mean that the Bok pack will have a very different feel to it this Saturday. Although Jean-Luc du Preez is the obvious replacement for Kriel at blindside flank, the two are very different players.
Du Preez’s strengths lie with his physicality, defence and ball-carrying ability, while he has offered considerable impact value off the bench so far this year.
The Boks do need a back-row bruiser for Saturday’s heavyweight clash against the All Blacks, though, and it would have been interesting to see whether Du Preez may have been considered as a starting option even before Kriel’s injury.
That elevation to the starting lineup could have come at the expense of Uzair Cassiem, but instead Du Preez is likely to just slot straight into the No 7 jersey, with the former continuing at eighthman.
Du Preez’s spot on the bench should be taken up by his twin brother, Dan, who is poised to make his Bok debut, while possibly becoming just the ninth set of brothers to play alongside each other in a Springbok Test.
Oosthuizen’s replacement is also not that straightforward. Although Trevor Nyakane has been providing back-up at tighthead prop, he has fulfilled an important role on the bench as the Boks’ ‘swinger’, who can feature on either side of the front row.
Should Coetzee opt to persist with Nyakane in his role as an impact substitute, Lions strongman Ruan Dreyer would come in at No 3, with Wilco Louw providing emergency cover at this point.
The other dilemma facing Coetzee is in the second row, where Franco Mostert would have initially been expected to slot straight back in as the incumbent No 5 lock after being rested last week.
However, Pieter-Steph du Toit was the Boks’ best performer against the Wallabies last Saturday as he produced a performance of power and physicality, which would be warmly welcomed against the All Blacks.
Ultimately, Du Toit is likely to revert to an impact role on the bench, while also providing additional cover as a blindside flank option.
The Bok team will be named at 05:00 (SA time) on Thursday, with no changes expected to be made to the backline.
Possible Springboks – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Eben Etzebeth (c), 3 Ruan Dreyer/Trevor Nyakane, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane/ Ruan Dreyer,19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Dan du Preez, 21 Francois Hougaard, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Damian de Allende.
Photo: Anne Laing