Whiteley on the rescue trail

2016-09-07 06:00

IT’S cut and dried by now. But officially the Springbok team to take on Australia’s Wallabies in South Africa’s third Rugby Championship Test this Saturday in Brisbane will not be announced until tomorrow.

One thing is certain though, it’s a team that is guaranteed to be somewhat shaken up from the one that lost 24-26 to Argentina in Salta a fortnight ago.

And pride of place in the likely changes must certainly go to popular Lions’ skipper and No. 8, Warren Whiteley, to take over as captain.

The leadership change is sure to come about following the announcement last weekend by Adriaan Strauss of his decision to step down from first class rugby. It’s not known at this stage what the future holds for the Bok hooker. Presently it’s a case of wait-and-see.

It seems certain though that Springbok coach, Allister Coetzee, will probably use the occasion to trigger other changes – perhaps for example - using Strauss as an off-field ally in the commentary box and give two hookers, Bongi Mbonambi and Malcolm Marx (from the bench), to demonstrate their ability at top level.

There’s no doubt that Strauss is much more than simply a competent player. At Test level, however, he perhaps lacks that extra edge that separates the best from the rest.

Similarly the move to start with Mbonambi would give coach Coetzee the chance in the latter half to give reserve hooker, Marx, the opportunity to display his ability at top level. Both are fine players in their own right.

A strong scrummager, Marx is an effective ball-carrier and is a highly aggressive worker at the breakdowns as well.

What else needs doing if the Boks are to wipe out the disconcerting ineptitude of their last performance in the international arena?

The need to fire in the Boks a whole new frame of mind in the hunt for greater success in Melbourne, is at the very centre of Coetzee’s problems.

Whiteley, he must be hoping, is the key. He has demonstrated time and again at the head of Super Rugby clashes for the Lions his ability to get the best out of players.

As he has demonstrated time and again for the Lions, Whiteley’s presence is certain to give the Boks a new positive edge.

As a leader he has helped his Super Rugby coach, Johan Ackermann, to bring out the very best in the Lions, giving them that crucial edge that makes winners of teams that might be good but not special.

Not only is Whiteley a fine player but also a canny and respected leader much in the manner of one of the province’s and Springboks’ World Cup winning captain, Francois Pienaar.

Others who may feature in a new-look Bok side could include wing Lwazi Mvovo in place of Ruan Combrink (broken leg); if flyhalf Elton Jantjies is still not fit this could create an opportunity for Johan Goosen at No. 10 or veteran Morne Steyn.

A recall for scrumhalf Francois Hougaard must surely signal the likelihood that he’ll take Rudy Paige’s place on the bench.

Others who may attract Coetzee’s attention could be Pieter-Steph du Toit at lock and Jaco Kriel at flank.

Weekend Currie Cup results: Western Province 34, Sharks 27; Cheetahs 57, EP Kings 25 (third match in seven days); Blue Bulls 31, Golden Lions 17.

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