Allister Coetzee promised he would make some tough calls in terms of player personnel after his side’s defeat to the All Blacks in their previous Rugby Championship match‚ and he has done exactly that.
The Springbok coach has made changes in crucial positions before tomorrow’s match against Australia at Loftus Versfeld.
Coetzee announced his 23-man match-day squad yesterday afternoon, making three changes to his backline.
Pat Lambie‚ who last played in the green and gold in the mid-year series against Ireland and suffered a concussion‚ has made a return straight into the starting lineup, where he will feature at fullback instead of flyhalf‚ where he last played.
He takes the place of Johan Goosen.
The halfback pairing of scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and pivot Elton Jantjies‚ who have started all of the Boks’ Rugby Championship matches so far‚ have also made way for Rudy Paige at No 9 and the experienced Morne Steyn at flyhalf.
Paige is the incumbent Bulls scrumhalf‚ while Steyn played for years at the Pretoria side before going in search of greener pastures in France.
It is this pair’s familiarity with the Loftus ground that has Coetzee believing they could do the job in what could prove to be the most crucial game of the competition for the Boks following a three-match losing streak.
“[Paige and Steyn] are very familiar with the Loftus conditions,” he said.
“They have been working hard in the system and it’s going to be a great opportunity for them to get a start.”
He said the Lions pair of Jantjies and De Klerk were not discarded.
“They are part of the system going forward‚ they are part of the setup‚” Coetzee said.
“Yes‚ there are things that they need to improve on.
“Yes‚ they will work on what they need to improve.
“There’s a plan on the table and [Paige and Steyn] suit the way we want to play this weekend.”
With Lambie shifted to fullback‚ Francois Hougaard starting at left wing instead of his accustomed scrumhalf and Juan de Jongh‚ who some believe is more of an outside centre than inside centre‚ where he will start tomorrow‚ plus outside centre Jesse Kriel perhaps more suited at fullback‚ some will question so many players being played out of position.
Coetzee’s answer to this was frank and brief.
“How would you feel if I said this was the most experienced backline we could field for the year?“
With Lambie bringing 51 test caps with him to the side and Steyn having played 64 tests for the Boks‚ a lack of experience will be no excuse should the Boks fail to fire tomorrow.
Willie le Roux will also provide experienced cover on the bench with Lionel Mapoe‚ who is the only other backline substitute in a six-two forwards-backline split bench at Loftus.
Pat Lambie‚ Bryan Habana‚ Jesse Kriel‚ Juan de Jongh‚ Francois Hougaard‚ Morne Steyn‚ Rudy Paige‚ Warren Whiteley‚ Oupa Mohoje‚ Francois Louw‚ Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ Eben Etzebeth‚ Vincent Koch‚ Adriaan Strauss‚ Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi‚ Steven Kitshoff‚ Julian Redelinghuys‚ Willem Alberts‚ Jaco Kriel‚ Lionel Mapoe‚ Willie le Roux.