Ross back for Boks

2017-10-06 06:00

BLOEMFONTEIN — The Springboks, desperate for a win over the Wallabies in Bloemfontein on Saturday, will take huge comfort from the fact that they have scrumhalf Ross Cronjé back in action.

The 28-year-old is still green when it comes to Test rugby — he has just four international caps to his name, having suffered two injuries and an illness in 2017 — but he offers a stability that the Boks have lacked when he has been on the sidelines.

Francois Hougaard was given the scrumhalf responsibilities in Cronjé’s absence, but coach Allister Coetzee eventually lost patience with the former Bulls man after another disappointing showing against the All Blacks two weekends ago.

With Hougaard dumped, Rudy Paige is set to stay on as second-choice as Cronjé returns.

It is a major positive for Coetzee and the Boks ahead of a match that they simply must win. Any hopes of a first Rugby Championship title since 2009 are well and truly extinguished, but the Boks must make a statement this weekend to suggest that they have recovered from that 57-0 hammering in Albany.

What Coetzee has in Cronjé is a scrumhalf who does the basics well and, most importantly, gets quality ball away quickly.

It was here, in particular, that Hougaard struggled as his two steps before passing gave the All Black defensive line time to squeeze the Bok attack.

Elton Jantjies is a flyhalf who thrives when he has that extra split-second, and Cronjé gives him that.

The Boks have struggled at scrumhalf ever since the end of the 2015 World Cup when Fourie du Preez bowed out of the game, but in Cronjé they seemingly have a player who can take them to 2019.

It is a large responsibility for a man who has represented his country just four times, but Cronjé appears level-headed enough to take it in his stride.

“I don’t feel that there’s pressure on me,” Cronjé said.

“This isn’t an individual sport ... it’s a team sport and I believe the guys around me will make my life a lot easier.

“I’m just excited to be back in the mix.”

Cronjé played in the 23-23 draw against the Wallabies in Perth, and he is expecting another tough assignment in Bloemfontein.

“They are a quality side and since the start of the Championship they’ve just got better and better,” he said of the Australians.

“But we do have the talent and the drive and we’re excited about the challenges that lie ahead.”

The defeat against the All Blacks, Cronjé said, was serving as a massive motivating factor for the group this week.

“It makes me a lot more hungry to go and show South Africa what we can do as a team. We were hurting, but that’s in the past now,” he said.

“The whole of South Africa expects us to win and that’s what we want to go out there and do.”

Meanwhile, Dillyn Leyds is set to start at wing for the Springboks.

He replaces an out-of-sorts Raymond Rhule, who was on Tuesday released from the Springbok squad to play for the Cheetahs in the PRO14.

S’busiso Nkosi was also released to play for the Sharks, which leaves Leyds and Courtnall Skosan as the only recognised wings in the Bok squad.

Jesse Kriel will be the back-up wing in case of an injury. — Sport24.

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