BoksSolid side picked for first Test

2012-06-07 00:00

JUST three years after failing to make the KZN Craven Week squad, the robust young Sharks flank Marcell Coetzee has found himself in the Springbok starting line-up to face England in the first Test at King’s Park on Saturday evening.

Coetzee, a product of Port Natal High School, is one of three new caps — all forwards — in Heyneke Meyer’s Springbok team with the two young locks, the 20-year-old Eben Etzebeth and Juandré Kruger, also making their debut on Saturday.

A fourth new face, Cheetahs prop Coenie Oosthuizen, is on the bench.

“Eben, Juandré, Marcell and Coenie have all put up their hands this season and I know they can succeed at Test level,” said Meyer.

If you can ignore, for a moment, the selection of the Bulls’ Zane Kirchner ahead of hometown fullback Pat Lambie, the team is solid and entirely predictable. Still, the inclusion of someone like Gio Aplon on the bench would have added an exciting, unorthodox touch for the final quarter.

Coetzee, who has had just one year of senior rugby and made his Super Rugby debut a year ago, has played nearly all his rugby on the blindside flank for the Sharks this season. But Meyer believes the busy, involved player can be even more effective on the open side where he has taken over from fetcher Heinrich Brüssow.

“Marcell has played great rugby all year and I believe he will be a superstar in years to come,” Meyer said yesterday.

The Boks have gone from feast to famine in the second row and, after fielding the most experienced lock pairing in international rugby in Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha at the Rugby World Cup last year, they will now have two rookies in Etzebeth and Kruger.

“It’s unusual for the Springboks to have two uncapped locks starting, so it’ll be a huge step up for them,” said Meyer. “They need to prove they can play at this level, but I’m very confident they can.”

The Bok coach, clearly aware of the allegations that he has favoured the Bulls in selection, pointed out that he could have selected a lock pairing of the Bulls’ Kruger and Flip van der Merwe.

“Flip and Juandré have played together so it would have been easier to pair the Bulls players, but I went for form. Eben brings something different to the party. He is physical and big and doesn’t shy away from contact and is also very good at contesting. I won’t say he is the next Bakkies Botha. He can surpass Bakkies.”

Meyer, in explaining the decision to select Kirchner ahead of Lambie, said he had opted for familiarity.

“We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. I went for combinations and guys that know each other. Pat is a great player and he can potentially make a huge difference off the bench.”

Keegan Daniel, able to play all three backrow roles, has been rewarded for his excellent Super Rugby form and is on the bench. Sharks coach John Plumtree, who has been singing his praises, will be chuffed.

“I don’t call them reserves but impact players,” Meyer said of the replacements.

He said that Coenie Oosthuizen and Adriaa Strauss, who was preferred to the Bulls’ Chiliboy Ralepelle, are among “the best ball players in the world”.

“They can turn a game. And Keegan [Daniel] is a guy who has proved himself and can come on at openside or at No. 8.”

Meyer said Bismarck du Plessis would be the new Springbok vice-captain. “I believe Bismarck is a great leader and I truly believe we have some of the best hookers in the world. Adriaan [Strauss] will take over from Bismarck at some stage and he will then be the vice-captain,” he said.

Only nine players that played in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against Australia last year have been included in the starting line-up.

“I have faith in the players and the ball is now in their hands to show they have what it takes to perform constantly at this level as we enter a new Springbok era,” said Meyer.

Kick-off is at 5 pm and the Australian-based New Zealander, Steve Walsh, will referee the Test.

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