Flo-Kolisi-Whiteley to give Boks new-look back row

Siya Kolisi (Gallo)
Siya Kolisi (Gallo)

Cape Town - Siya Kolisi's flexibility in the loose trio is something that Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus pointed to during a press conference in Stellenbosch last week.

Now officially the full-time captain of this Bok team, Kolisi started his tenure as skipper by playing three Tests in the No 6 jersey against England in June. 

But, on Saturday, the 27-year-old is expected to shift to the blindside and the No 7 jersey for his side's Rugby Championship opener against Argentina in Durban in a move that will accommodate the return of Francois Louw at No 6. 

That, it seems, is the way that Erasmus is going to go. 

The coach also felt the need to throw in the possibility of Kolisi playing at No 8, but that role is likely to go to the fit-again Warren Whiteley at Kings Park.

In that Stellenbosch press briefing, Erasmus also pointed to the fact that he didn't consider Kolisi's work over the ball to be world class. 

While he is a flexible option in the Bok loose trio, the skipper's Super Rugby form in 2018 did not come without question marks. 

On Saturday, he will have a new role in the side. 

Against England, it was Duane Vermeulen who was tasked with doing most of the work on the ground, but that role will now go to Louw. 

Kolisi will now be able to play with a bit more freedom, able to take more ball and set up rucks rather than working to secure them. 

"We've played together before," Louw said of Kolisi from Durban on Tuesday.

"Siya is just an immensely physical player and I think we play quite a different game. He's been playing in the No 6 jersey in the last few Tests, but I personally feel he is more of a ball carrier.

"He's really quick and he can take those half gaps and run alongside the backs. He's got a big presence on defence were I'm probably a bit more breakdown focused and maybe a bit tighter ... I think our games complement each other. In that way I think we could definitely feed off each other."

Whiteley, meanwhile, will naturally offer a very different set of skills to Vermeulen. 

The Lions skipper, named national captain by Allister Coetzee at the start of the 2017 season, has had a woeful time with injuries. 

He is set to pull on a Bok jersey for the first time since June of that year when he suffered a groin injury against France that would change his career. 

So much has changed since then - the Boks have had three different captains and now have a new coach - but Whiteley will be more determined than ever to remind of his value in a Springbok No 8 jersey. 

"Warren is obviously a fantastic player and a very good lineout option for us when he does play," Louw said.

"I think he is more of a back trapped in a forward's body. He is a really good connection between the forwards and the backs.

"He is good in those outside channels and in the midfield, with ball in hand he is everywhere and the work rate that he brings defensively. He pitches up to games and he's going to give you 80 minutes without taking a step back."

Erasmus will name his side on Thursday, while kick-off on Saturday is at 17:05.

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