Springbok coach Allister Coetzee yesterday felt the need to subtly jump to the defence of his captain, Adriaan Strauss. Not that Strauss needs defending just yet. The coach was running the rule over pockets of excellence from the series against Ireland, which the Springboks won 2-1, when he saw the opportunity to talk up his skipper.
“We only lost one line-out in the series. You can look up the stats. Adriaan’s accuracy has been phenomenal,” the coach said.
Coetzee was careful not to blow too much smoke, as it could be interpreted as the start of something for which he will feel the heat.
The arrival of Lions tyro Malcolm Marx to the Bok squad has not just brought renewed energy to the ranks, but his prospects as a future starting hooker has been enthusiastically talked about in the last few weeks.
Marx brings explosiveness, while Strauss remains unflappable, no matter what the situation.
The wins column is likely to provide guidance further down the line.
For now, the coach wants his team to continue with their upward curve in the primary phases.
“I was pleased with the set piece, especially on our ball,” he said about the series against Ireland. “Bar one scrum, we were good.”
Tighthead prop Julian Redelinghuys underlined the importance of maintaining that trend.
“That is one area Argentina focus on quite heavily. They will obviously be a massive threat there. Argentina draw a lot of energy if they get ahead of you in the scrums,” he said.
While Redelinghuys was coy to assess his performances, Coetzee was quick to step in.
“I’ve been really happy with his progress. His primary job is to get the shoulder up and scrum well, but his workrate for a tighthead prop is the difference between average players and good players. He is a hard working tighthead,” he said.
While Redelinghuys is assured of a start on Saturday in the absence of the injured Frans Malherbe, Coetzee needs to find a replacement for the England-based Willie le Roux.
He yesterday likened the French-based Johan Goosen to Hurricanes talisman Beauden Barrett, perhaps the clearest sign yet of how he hopes to fill the vacant No 15 jersey.
“I think we can improve our kicking game,” Coetzee, no doubt intimating Goosen could be the much needed panacea, said.
“In the first test against Ireland, we had four left footed kickers. We have a nice balance now.”
The other options for Coetzee are the equally versatile Jesse Kriel and Ruan Combrinck.
Meanwhile, Warren Whiteley cementing his place in the Springbok No 8 jersey in the absence of Duane Vermeulen is far from cast in stone.
Coetzee expects Vermeulen to return from his knee injury for the last two Rugby Championships tests in October. Besides, he wants Whiteley’s workload eased by then.
“Our opensiders are Jaco Kriel and Francois Louw and our two No 8s are Warren and Sikhumbuzo [Notshe]. I don’t need extra cover, Pieter-Steph du Toit can cover blindside flank as well.”
The most likely starter on the blindside appears to be Oupa Mohoje, who had captained South Africa A against the Saxons.