JOHANNESBURG – Allister Coetzee is confident his 31-man Springbok squad has the firepower to get the better of France in a three-Test series next month.
Coetzee’s squad consists of several young and exciting players who’ve shone in Super Rugby this season.
But there is also place for seniors like Frans Steyn, Duane Vermeulen and Francois Hougaard from abroad and locally the likes of Coenie Oosthuizen, Jan Serfontein, Eben Etzebeth, Tendai Mtawarira and even Chiliboy Ralepelle, who is back in the Bok side for the first time in four years.
The side will be led by the Lions’ successful captain Warren Whiteley.
“Getting the right mix in the starting team is going to be my biggest challenge, but when you combine the form players with the experienced guys, we’ve got the ammunition,” said Coetzee yesterday when he named his chosen players for the first series of the year.
His form men include Lions stars Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronjé, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Ruan Dreyer and Malcolm Marx and other rising stars in Dillyn Leyds, Lukhanyo Am of the Sharks and Lizo Gqoboka of the Bulls.
Coetzee said he was pleased to be able to reward several form players from Super Rugby, and added that getting combinations right would be crucial in the coming weeks before the first France Test on June 10.
“I felt it was important to reward form players and I’ve done that,” said Coetzee.
“Ross Cronjé has been the form scrumhalf, in the fullback position there was SP Marais and Clayton Blommetjies to consider, but Andries Coetzee has been consistently good for a few years now. He is the answer for us.
“Form is also based on confidence and he’ll come into the squad full of confidence. The nine and 10 combination is there as well (Cronjé and Jantjies), also 12 and 13 is going to be important.
“But it’s in broken play where these combinations become key because who are the guys who stay back to run the ball back, it’s the 9 and 10, the wings (11 and 14) and the eighthman and the fullback, so who do we have Cronjé, Skosan, Whiteley, Elton and Coetzee. They all know each other and have been communicating with each other for years in Super Rugby.”
He added Steyn – who will be the back-up flyhalf in the absence of the injured Handré Pollard, Pat Lambie and the unavailability of Curwin Bosch – Hougaard and Serfontein had “been around the block” and would play crucial roles next to some young players.
“Yes, we do have a crisis at flyhalf. The two Stormers guys (Rob du Preez and Jean-Luc du Plessis) are also injured. I believe Steyn will add value to the team, he’s been there and done that and can play 10 and 12.”
It also appears that with Whiteley set to wear the No 8 on his back, Vermeulen will be considered as a blindside flank.
It would appear the likes of the overseas-based Du Plessis brothers, Jannie and Bismarck, wings Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen, and flyhalf Morné Steyn have played their last matches for the Boks.
The squad will assemble on Monday for a week-long camp in Plettenberg Bay before moving to Pretoria, where they will fine-tune final preparations for the first Test.
The Springboks will face France on Saturday June 10 at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, followed by Tests at Kings Park in Durban (June 17) and Ellis Park in Johannesburg (June 24).
Outside backs: Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosan, Dillyn Leyds, Raymond Rhule
Centres: Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein
Flyhalf/utility back: Elton Jantjies, Frans Steyn
Scrumhalves: Francois Hougaard, Ross Cronjé, Rudy Paige
Loose forwards: Warren Whiteley (captain), Oupa Mohoje, Duane Vermeulen, Jaco Kriel, Siya Kolisi
Locks: Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Lood de Jager, Franco Mostert
Props: Ruan Dreyer, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Tendai Mtawarira, Lizo Gqoboka, Coenie Oosthuizen
Hookers: Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi, Chiliboy Ralepelle