Form a crucial factor
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee hit the reset button yesterday when he named 31 players for next month’s three-test series against France. He had hoped‚ like most self-respecting national coaches‚ that his second year in charge would be one of consolidation in the lead up to a World Cup.
But through a combination of factors, the squad he assembled for France excluded several players who started the journey with him at the corresponding stage last year.
Crucially‚ he will go into the international season with a new captain in Warren Whiteley after Adriaan Strauss opted to step away from the international limelight.
Whiteley‚ the Lions’ captain‚ assumes a role Bok fans had better hope he still occupies by the time the next World Cup comes around.
Apart from Strauss‚ the other men missing from the match 23 Coetzee started with against Ireland at Newlands last year are Pat Lambie‚ who is concussed‚ Julian Redelinghuys‚ whose career is on hold due to a neck injury‚ while the overseas-based Willie le Roux and JP Pietersen are out of favour‚ as is the north-bound Faf de Klerk.
Trevor Nyakane and Lionel Mapoe have a shot at redemption through the SA A squad.
The Springboks lost eight of their 12 tests last year with the coach‚ like so many of his predecessors‚ showing an over reliance on experience over form.
“One thing I’ve learnt through coaching is that you are never too old to learn.
“I have rewarded form‚” Coetzee said.
Form players generally emerge from teams in the ascendancy and Lions’ scrumhalf Ross Cronje‚ tighthead prop Ruan Dreyer‚ wing Courtnall Skosan and fullback Andries Coetzee were four of eight uncapped players named in Coetzee’s squad.
Coetzee’s inclusion at fullback is a bit of a surprise‚ but the coach stressed the importance of combinations. He said the fullback’s familiarity with his Lions’ teammates was key.
Promising Bulls prop Lizo Gqoboka‚ Stormers utility back Dillyn Leyds‚ Cheetahs wing Raymond Rhule and the Sharks’ eye catching centre Lukhanyo Am are the other newbies.
Elton Jantjies is the only flyhalf in the squad but there is back-up in the recalled Racing 92 centre Frans Steyn.
Soon the coach may have other options.
“I’ve spoken to Handre [Pollard] who is ahead of schedule with his training [rehabilitation]‚” Coetzee said.
As for the Sharks’ Curwin Bosch‚ Coetzee has thought it prudent to let him play with the SA U20 team‚ while leaving the door ajar for possible inclusion in the third test of the series.
There was also a recall for Chiliboy Ralepelle‚ who last played for the Boks in 2012‚ while Francois Hougaard has been included as a scrumhalf‚ hopefully in a position he can now settle in.
Forwards: Lood de Jager (lock)‚ Pieter-Steph du Toit (lock)‚ Ruan Dreyer (prop)‚ Eben Etzebeth (lock)‚ Steven Kitshoff (prop)‚ Siya Kolisi (flank)‚ Jaco Kriel (loose forward)‚ Frans Malherbe (prop)‚ Malcolm Marx (hooker)‚ Bongi Mbonambi (hooker)‚ Oupa Mohoje (loose forward)‚ Franco Mostert (lock)‚ Tendai Mtawarira (prop)‚ Lizo Gqoboka (prop)‚ Coenie Oosthuizen (prop)‚ Chiliboy Ralepelle (hooker)‚ Duane Vermeulen (loose forward)‚ Warren Whiteley (captain‚ loose forward).
Backs: Lukhanyo Am (centre)‚ Andries Coetzee (fullback)‚ Ross Cronje (scrumhalf)‚ Damian de Allende (centre)‚ Francois Hougaard (scrumhalf)‚ Elton Jantjies (flyhalf)‚ Jesse Kriel (centre)‚ Dillyn Leyds (wing/utility back)‚ Rudy Paige (scrumhalf)‚ Raymond Rhule (wing)‚ Jan Serfontein (centre)‚ Courtnall Skosan (wing)‚ Frans Steyn (flyhalf/centre).