Springboks

5 Springbok selection conundrums for Coetzee

Allister Coetzee (Gallo Images)
Allister Coetzee (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Springbok coach Allister Coetzee, consistent with his team selection so far in 2017, has a few tough decisions to make ahead of Saturday's clash against Ireland in Dublin.

With Jan Serfontein unavailable, there will obviously be a change at No 12 while the return of Coenie Oosthuizen and Tendai Mtawarira means there are likely to be changes in the front row as well. 

It is a big Test for Coetzee and the Boks, who lost all four of their matches on their northern hemisphere tour last year. 

Fixtures against France, Italy and Wales follow, but a win over a highly-rated Irish side on Saturday would go a long way towards convincing a slightly sceptical South African rugby public that there is nothing to fear on this tour. 

Coetzee is set to announce his side for the Ireland Test on Thursday afternoon, but here are FIVE areas he might be thinking long and hard about before then. 

INSIDE CENTRE

Serfontein is unavailable, so there has to be a change here. The realistic options are Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende or Francois Venter while Jesse Kriel is likely to hold onto the No 13 jersey. Whichever way Coetzee decides to go, he will be fielding a new pairing this year given that Serfontein has started every Test in 2017 so far. The De Allende/Kriel partnership does have "history" after it was the midfield pairing at the 2015 Rugby World Cup under Heyneke Meyer.

FLYHALF

Coetzee has dropped a couple of hints this week that Handre Pollard could make his first Test start since 2015. That, though, would be harsh on Elton Jantjies who has been largely improved in Bok colours this year. It is certainly one of the more intriguing selection dilemmas facing Coetzee. Has Jantjies done enough wrong to warrant losing his place? Northern hemisphere conditions could persuade the coach to go for the safer Pollard option. 

FRONT ROW

Coenie Oosthuizen's return to fitness will almost certainly see him back in the starting line-up at tighthead, but Coetzee must choose between Wilco Louw and Trevor Nyakane for his bench cover. Then, at loosehead, Coetzee faces an even tougher call. Steven Kitshoff was outstanding against the All Blacks at Newlands last month in what was his first Test start, but Tendai Mtawarira is available once more. On form it is hard to overlook Kitshoff while, on experience, there is nobody better equipped than Beast. 

LOOSE FORWARDS

Another very interesting decision awaits Coetzee here. Siya Kolisi (No 6), Pieter-Steph du Toit (No 7) and Francois Louw (No 8) formed an unfamiliar loose trio against the All Blacks at Newlands in an experiment that worked. That said, Coetzee now has Uzair Cassiem available again and he may be tempted to use him at the back of the scrum once more. Du Toit looked good on the side of the scrum against New Zealand, but Cassiem's return might allow him to move back to the second row. 

NO 5

As our chief writer Rob Houwing wrote on Wednesday, Eben Etzebeth will wear the No 4 jersey on Saturday but Coetzee has options at No 5. They are Du Toit, Franco Mostert, Lood de Jager and Ruan Botha. De Jager looked back to his best against the All Blacks while Mostert has been backed for large parts of the year. 

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