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Rugby | Springboks

Jean luc du Preez © Gallo Images

Boks beef up for All Blacks

The Springbok selection for Saturday’s long awaited Castle Lager Rugby Championship clash with the All Blacks in Albany reflects the perceived importance of matching or even dominating the world’s No 1 team in the physical exchanges.

The injury that has ruled Jaco Kriel out of the match and forced him to return home to South Africa made the selection of Sharks bruiser Jean-Luc du Preez on the blindside flank a certainty, but it is the make-up of the bench that sends out a clear message about where the Bok focus is.

With Franco Mostert returning to the second row after being rested last week, Pieter-Steph du Toit, who was massive for the Boks in their draw against Australia, drops to the bench. However, instead of displacing Bulls behemoth Lood de Jager from the bench, Du Toit is included as a utility forward, and looks most likely to come onto the field as a loose-forward. De Jager is retained on the bench, and there is no specialist loose-forward cover.

We can only speculate on what coach Allister Coetzee would have done had Kriel been fit, but it seems likely he would have tried to find a place for Du Preez somewhere in his starting team. Du Preez fits the mould of the traditional big Bok blindside flank in the mould of Willem Alberts, Danie Rossouw, Juan Smith and Theuns Stofberg, and with Coetzee already having stated the need to front the All Blacks in the early physical exchanges, it makes sense to have him on the field from the outset.

The inclusion of both Du Toit and De Jager on the bench gives the Boks the opportunity to have a strong presence injected later in the game and to sustain the physical onslaught on the Kiwis for the full 80 minutes.

As anticipated, there are three changes to the Bok run on team for the match in Albany, which is just north of Auckland and was a venue that the South Africans saw quite a lot of in the pool stages of the 2011 World Cup. All three changes come to the pack, with Ruan Dreyer joining his Lions teammate Mostert and Du Preez in being elevated to the starting side.

Coetzee has always maintained modern rugby is about a 23-man squad, and not a 15-man starting team, so his decision to return Mostert to the No 5 jersey may not have been difficult for him given the strong impact that Du Toit can make at either lock or flank/No 8 coming on late in the game. However, having to choose between Mostert and Du Toit would have made him the envy of the coaches of other nations, as Du Toit was outstanding and probably the most influential Bok player in Perth.

The selection also makes sense from the viewpoint of Mostert being the incumbent, and he was in excellent form before he was rested for this match.

“Pieter-Steph did very well when he stepped in for Franco last weekend in a rotational switch,” explained Coetzee.

“Franco had five superb matches before he was rested last week. He is refreshed again and I expect another strong performance from him as his high work-rate is much needed.

“Ruan did well when he replaced Frans Malherbe against a powerful French front row in June and he will start on Saturday because we want to persist with Trevor Nyakane and Steven Kitshoff as a combination off the bench to make an impact in the second half.”

Wilco Louw, flown to New Zealand as a replacement for the injured Coenie Oosthuizen, is probably the strongest scrummager among the tightheads in the current squad, but after only arriving this week it would have been a big call to elevate him into the starting team. Dreyer, as he showed for the Lions, is also a mobile prop who is a good replacement for the hard working Oosthuizen in that regard.

With two of the three changes to the starting side being prompted by the injuries to Kriel and Oosthuizen respectively, Coetzee has stuck to his mantra of continuity for what he considers to be the team’s toughest test match of the year. He has described the All Blacks as the ultimate test for the Boks, who are the only unbeaten international team in 2017 after six test matches.

“They are the No 1 side in the world both in rankings and experience and there is no greater contest than to play them in New Zealand,” said the coach.

“The rivalry between the two sides is filled with rich history, and on Saturday we get an opportunity to be part of that. They are always at their best when playing the Springboks and we are expecting another huge battle.”

Springbok team: 15.Andries Coetzee, 14.Raymond Rhule, 13.Jesse Kriel, 12.Jan Serfontein, 11.Courtnall Skosan, 10.Elton Jantjies, 9.Ross Cronje, 8.Uzair Cassiem, 7.Jean-Luc du Preez, 6.Siya Kolisi, 5.Franco Mostert, 4.Eben Etzebeth (captain), 3.Ruan Dreyer, 2.Malcolm Marx, 1.Beast Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16.Bongi Mbonambi, 17.Steven Kitshoff, 18.Trevor Nyakane, 19.Lood de Jager, 20.Pieter-Steph du Toit, 21.Francois Hougaard, 22.Handre Pollard, 23.Damian de Allende.


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