CAPE TOWN – There will be at least one “shock” on Thursday when Springbok coach Allister Coetzee announces his starting line-up for Saturday's match against France (kick-off at 5pm).
With a rash of uncapped players in the squad and with Coetzee looking to reward Super Rugby form instead of going with the tried and trusted, a new era beckons.
Let’s start at the back of the line.
Raymond Rhule is the one player that might come in as the “yoh” inclusion in the back three. Even though the Cheetahs have not fired on all cylinders this year, Rhule might just crack the nod ahead of the Stormers’ Dillyn Leyds.
And once again it’s not a case of Rhule being in better form than Leyds, but rather the latter’s ability to play in several positions that would make him a “handyman” coming off the bench.
A new-look back three might also include fullback Andries Coetzee and left winger Courtnall Skosan – both uncapped.
At scrumhalf, Francois Hougaard will probably not start, with Ross Cronje to make his debut and partnering with Elton Jantjies to keep the Super Rugby combination going.
Up front, the biggest possible shock will come in the middle of the engine room.
Springboks fans have become used to Eben Etzebeth either partnering Lood de Jager or Pieter-Steph du Toit, but with the Lions’ Franco Mostert banging hard on the door, it might be him who will man the No.5 jumper on Saturday.
Again, Du Toit’s ability to play at No.7 is a useful tool to have coming off the bench.
As for the front-row, it looks like the team will be made up of a lot of Lions players and therefore Malcolm Marx, who’s got a good lineout relationship with Mostert, will play at hooker.
Tendai “the Beast” Mtawarira is the obvious choice at No.1, with Ruan Dreyer another possible starting shock at tighthead.
With Frans Malherbe not at his best this year and Coenie Oosthuizen able to play in both positions, it would make sense if Coetzee decided to rope in yet another debutant when he names his side on Thursday.