CAPE TOWN – Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus will show his hand on Thursday when he names his team to take on the All Blacks in Wellington on Saturday.
New Zealand coach Steve Hansen revealed his side on Wednesday evening, bringing back heavyweight names such as Beauden Barrett, Aaron Smith and Rieko Ioane for the Westpac Stadium showdown.
But after their lethargic 23-18 loss to the Wallabies, the Boks are wary of another embarrassing defeat to the world champions after last year’s 57-0 drubbing in Albany.
Erasmus has already told the New Zealand media that Handré Pollard will return at flyhalf at the expense of Elton Jantjies, and there have rumours of a few other changes as well.
But this is whom I would pick from the 30 squad members who are in the Kiwi capital at the moment…
15 Cheslin Kolbe
After coming on for his debut last week for the injured Makazole Mapimpi, Kolbe hardly got the ball on attack. Give him a real chance in his preferred position against players he has faced many times in Super Rugby.
14 Willie le Roux
He is fortunate to retain a starting spot considering two below-par displays, but Mapimpi and Sbu Nkosi are injured, while Dillyn Leyds continues to be overlooked. Perhaps some responsibility needs to be taken away from Le Roux to find his spark again, and that will be achieved by letting him loose out wide.
13 Lukhanyo Am
Jesse Kriel was once again exposed for his shortcomings last week. Am deserves another opportunity after a couple of solid outings earlier this year. And with the Sharks having done well on tour, he won’t fear the Kiwis either.
12 Damian de Allende
One of the few players who made an impact against Australia, but he needs to be used differently from just bashing the ball up the middle. He can step and has a good pass (yes, he actually does!).
11 Aphiwe Dyantyi
Poor Dyantyi was seldom brought into the game in Brisbane. If the ball cannot get to him with a pass, the inside backs need to put in a few grubbers for him to use his electric speed, a la Bryan Habana.
10 Elton Jantjies
It would be an injustice of the highest order if the Lions pivot is discarded this week after a composed outing against Australia. Just needs to slow down when taking kicks to touch.
9 Ross Cronjé
Faf de Klerk was all over the show against Australia, and doesn’t deserve to hold on to his No 9 jersey. Cronjé has played enough Tests to handle the big occasion, and his familiarity with Jantjies will help too.
8 Warren Whiteley
Whiteley gets through a lot of defensive work, but needs to get his hands on the ball more often. His silky running lines are what makes him effective, not tackling all day long.
7 Sikhumbuzo Notshe
The Boks desperately need some pace in the loose trio to shake up the classy All Blacks, and Notshe can bring something different.
6 Siya Kolisi (captain)
Having Notshe alongside him would take some pressure off Kolisi to be the only loose forward with some pace, and he would then be able to play closer to the ruck and help Whiteley in defence.
5 Pieter-Steph du Toit
He is a better lock than flank, so his agility for a second-rower shouldn’t be wasted in the loose trio. Must take on Sam Whitelock in the lineout battle.
4 Eben Etzebeth
Don’t worry, Etzebeth WILL be up for this one, especially with Brodie Retallick out injured.
3 Wilco Louw
He is a best scrummaging tighthead in South Africa, and will look to put Karl Tu’inukuafe under pressure.
2 Bongi Mbonambi
Despite being unfairly substituted by Rassie Erasmus in Brisbane, Mbonambi plays “tighter” than Malcolm Marx – who operates more like a fourth loose forward – and that actually helps the Boks upfront.
1 Steven Kitshoff
Was excellent in the first half against Australia, and will relish the chance to take on Owen Franks.
Bench: 16 Malcolm Marx 17 Tendai Mtawarira 18 Thomas du Toit 19 RG Snyman 20 Marco van Staden 21 Embrose Papier 22 Handré Pollard 23 Damian Willemse.