Springbok coach Allister Coetzee gave the clearest indication yet that the flyhalf berth remains problematic when he named veteran Morne Steyn on the bench for Saturday’s Rugby Championship match against the Pumas in Salta in northwest Argentina.
Elton Jantjies will again start in a run-on side that shows only one injury-enforced change from the team that beat the Pumas 30-23 in Nelspruit last weekend.
Tighthead Vincent Koch replaces the injured Julian Redelinghuys with Lourens Adriaanse coming on to the bench for a potential second test cap.
But Steyn’s inclusion on the bench at the expense of centre Juan de Jongh is a sign that Jantjies is under pressure for his position after some mediocre displays at test level.
The Lions’ pivot has battled to reproduce his excellent Super Rugby form at test level.
Ostensibly Steyn has been included because he “provides additional kicking cover”, according to Coetzee.
But with Johan Goosen at fullback‚ the Boks already have right-footed kicking cover.
Steyn’s presence is both a warning and an inspiration to Jantjies to up his game. Coetzee has not publicly criticised Jantjies but he knows that the flyhalf has to start delivering dominant performances‚ especially as the pack has more than provided front-foot ball this season.
Also Faf de Klerk has been superb at scrumhalf‚ so the flyhalf cannot complain about good service either.
Koch’s inclusion was straightforward due to Redelinghuys’s misfortune and Adriaanse’s return is reward for a good Super Rugby campaign with the Sharks. Centres Damian de Allende and Lionel Mapoe‚ who have not been convincing individually or as a combination this season‚ have another chance to secure their places in the long term.
Openside flank Francois Louw is also preferred over the in-form Jaco Kriel.
It was an expected move by Coetzee but many of these players will know they are on notice.
15 – Johan Goosen‚ 14 – Ruan Combrinck‚ 13 – Lionel Mapoe‚ 12 – Damian de Allende‚ 11 – Bryan Habana‚ 10 – Elton Jantjies‚ 9 Faf de Klerk; 8 – Warren Whiteley‚ 7 – Oupa Mahoje‚ 6 – Francois Louw‚ 5 – Lood de Jager‚ 4 – Eben Etzebeth‚ 3 – Vincent Koch‚ 2 – Adriaan Strauss (captain)‚ 1 – Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16 – Bongi Mbonambi‚ 17 – Steven Kitshoff‚ 18 Lourens Adriaanse‚ 19 – Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ 20 – Jaco Kriel‚ 21 – Rudy Paige‚ 22 Morne Steyn‚ 23 – Jesse Kriel.