After a dismal 2016 that saw the Springboks win just four out of 12 tests and suffer eight losses‚ coach Allister Coetzee has to get his 31-man group right today‚ despite a long injury list.
Part of the excuse Coetzee used by the end of last year was that he was appointed late to the job and did not have enough time to prepare his team.
Ironically though‚ the Boks won two of their first three tests in his charge when they beat Ireland 2-1 in a tight home series.
The more time the coach spent with them‚ the worse the results became. But there has been more clarity about the coaching staff and more time to map out the season in its entirety.
But besides the Lions‚ and to a lesser extent the Stormers‚ SA teams have struggled in Super Rugby this year‚ making selections even more complex for the Bok coach.
He has held three training camps and will have a strong idea about the type of player he wants‚ but the reality is that in certain positions SA is thin at the moment.
No 8 Duane Vermeulen is set to be the only overseas-based player picked for the series, with Francois Louw injured.
Coetzee is likely to go for 18 forwards and 13 backs in his initial squad.
Lions scrumhalf Ross Cronje has done enough this season to push his claims as the Boks’ starting halfback, while Sharks’ centre Lukhanyo Am should be rewarded for his excellence and consistency throughout the season.
Lions wing Courtnall Skosan is another newcomer set for a taste of test rugby after another strong season.
He is the leading South African try scorer in Super Rugby with seven.
Stormers utility back Dillyn Leyds is also set to be rewarded for his excellent form.
Up front, Bulls prop Lizo Gqoboka‚ who has been a rare shining light in their otherwise shambolic campaign‚ is set to make his first Bok squad.
Cheetahs prop Ox Nche is another likely to receive the nod, while veteran hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle is on track for a Bok recall.
Possible Bok squad:
Backs – Lukhanyo Am‚ Ruan Combrinck‚ Ross Cronje‚ Damian de Allende‚ Elton Jantjies‚ Jesse Kriel‚ Pat Lambie‚ Dillyn Leyds‚ Lionel Mapoe‚ Rudy Paige‚ Jan Serfontein‚ Courtnall Skosan‚ Jano Vermaak. Forwards – Uzair Cassiem‚ Lood de Jager‚ Jean-Luc du Preez‚ Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ Eben Etzebeth‚ Lizo Gqoboka‚ Siya Kolisi‚ Frans Malherbe‚ Malcolm Marx‚ Bongi Mbonambi‚ Franco Mostert‚ Tendai Mtawarira‚ Ox Nche‚ Trevor Nyakane‚ Coenie Oosthuizen‚ Chiliboy Ralepelle‚ Duane Vermeulen‚ Warren Whiteley.