Bok positions covered ahead of Test

2017-09-14 06:00

WITH Lions prop Ruan Dreyer having arrived in camp as the last squad member, the jigsaw pieces are in place for the Springboks ahead of Saturday’s clash with the Wallabies that starts the Australasian leg of their Castle Lager Rugby Championship challenge.

Coach Allister Coetzee has stuck to the continuity mantra throughout the international season so far, and after five consecutive comfortable wins, there is good reason for him to do that.

Perhaps there is a question mark over the back-row balance and there is some justified concern in some quarters about the back three, but otherwise, in comparison to last year, the personnel boxes are being ticked as much as the performance boxes are. In most positions there is good back-up.

If you have someone like Pieter-Steph du Toit playing off the bench and Lood de Jager not even on the bench, then you do have depth in the second row, and there is good back-up at looseforward, too.

Now that Handré Pollard is a playing member of the squad, flyhalf is also sorted, though you’d hope that if Elton Jantjies is injured at some point and Pollard has to play a full game, it doesn’t happen too soon.

Pollard has been out for some time because of injury.

The absence of Ross Cronjé was felt in Salta, Argentina, where Francois Hougaard was not always as slick and his decision-making wasn’t as good as the man he replaced, so Cronjé will be a welcome inclusion at No. 9 when Coetzee names his team.

The midfield is also well covered, with Damian de Allende chomping at the bit to get proper game time, and Pollard can play inside-centre too if necessary.

What was a potential problem area, though, after the arrival back from Argentina was tighthead prop.

Coenie Oosthuizen went off early in Salta with a rib injury and, while Trevor Nyakane is a good swinger on the bench because he can play both positions, it is doubtful that Coetzee would want to start with him against Australia or New Zealand.

During the period before Oosthuizen was cleared to travel once scans disclosed no tears or breaks in the affected area of his ribs, and while there was doubt over when Dreyer would arrive back from paternity leave, the No. 3 jersey and the back-up was a missing jigsaw piece.

Fortunately, Oosthuizen looks likely to be ready for the Wallaby match, and if he is not, Dreyer is there to join Nyakane as back-up.

— Gavid Rich

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