Springbok front row flexibility sees a 'coin toss' separate Trevor from Ox

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Trevor Nyakane (Gallo)
Trevor Nyakane (Gallo)

The obvious surprise in the Springbok starting line-up for the third Test against Wales on Saturday was the inclusion of Jaden Hendrikse at scrumhalf, but head coach Jacques Nienaber also raised a few eyebrows with his choices in the front row. 

Bongi Mbonambi, as expected, returned at hooker while Frans Malherbe is back in the No 3 jersey after both were rotated for the second Test in Bloemfontein. No surprises there. 

Trevor Nyakane, however, has been backed at loosehead having started the Bloemfontein Test at tighthead with Steven Kitshoff on the bench and Ox Nche, who appeared to be top of the pecking order alongside the Stormers captain, left out entirely. 

It is not a controversial selection - Nyakane has proved himself able as a 'swinger' option in the front row between No 1 and No 3 - but rather one that came out of the blue somewhat given the push Nche has been given in the position. 

Springbok team

15 Damian Willemse, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Jaden Hendrikse, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (captain), 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Trevor Nyakane

Substitutes: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Elrigh Louw, 22 Faf de Klerk, 23 Willie le Roux

Thomas du Toit, who started the Bloemfontein Test at loosehead, has also been groomed as a flexible swinger option over his Bok career. 

"If you look at the front rows that we have, I think we're fortunate there," said Nienaber after naming his side on Tuesday. 

"Last week Thomas started at loosehead but he's played the majority of his rugby at tighthead, and the same with someone like Trevor. We're fortunate that we have players of that quality that can produce at loosehead and tighthead."

In terms of the decision to back Nyakane over Nche for the series decider in Cape Town, the coach revealed it was incredibly tight between the two. 

"It's a coin toss between the two," Nienaber said.

"I thought Ox played well in the first Test and I thought Trevor was equally as good in the second Test.

"We just decided to go with a front row that we used before last year where Trevor is on the loosehead with Bongi and then Frans Malherbe on the tighthead. We got some good results with that, so that's why we've decided to go this route."

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