Next up for Allister Coetzee and his Springboks is a four-Test stop in Europe in November. Here we highlight the areas the Boks must focus on to ensure they kick on from their good showing against New Zealand last weekend and are competitive in the Tests against Ireland, France, Italy and Wales
Need for a world-class scrumhalf
The truth of the matter is that South Africa has been without a world class scrumhalf since the retirement of Fourie du Preez after the 2015 Rugby World Cup. Incumbent scrumhalf Ross Cronjé has been able to hold his own in his first season of international rugby, but lags behind contemporaries in New Zealand’s Aaron Smith and Australia’s Will Genia, who have both been around for a while.
Not even the return of Francois Hougaard to the No 9 jersey could resolve the glaring shortcoming of the country’s stocks at scrumhalf.
In the absence of world class, it will be up to Cronjé and his deputy, Rudy Paige, to step up their performances and show they can at least be on a par with the rest of their international peers.
Elton Jantjies has had his time to make the No10 jersey his own, but he has been unable to replicate his scintillating Super Rugby form on the international stage consistently.
There have been plenty of highlights so far this year but it is on the big occasion against the All Blacks where Jantjies has played a game that is unfamiliar to him.
A little bit of competition might not be a bad thing for Jantjies and it certainly won’t be for the Boks, and players like Handré Pollard, Curwin Bosch and Damian Willemse must now also be given a fair chance at the jersey.
Fattening the midfield, especially at 13
The midfield combination of Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel has worked at times but for the better part of their marriage this season, they have failed to stamp their authority on games. Serfontein has enjoyed one of his better international seasons in over two years and has done enough to stay put at No 12.
Kriel on the other hand still looks lost at sea and while he has the physique to be a devastating centre, he lacks the confidence to back his enormous talent. Allister Coetzee would do well in giving Sharks centre Lukhanyo Am, pictured, a run and also consider a return for Rohan Janse van Rensburg.
Time for Gelant to shine
Springbok fullback Andries Coetzee has probably punched above his weight since his elevation into the national team this year.
He has been the safe choice at fullback but that in itself might be where the problem lies. At international level against teams like the All Blacks and England, safe just doesn’t cut it.
The time has come for Bulls fullback Warrick Gelant to be unleashed on the world. He is fast, deceptive and unpredictable. He has the X-Factor that will give the Springboks that lethal punch from the back that will down even the best defence around.
Bigger, faster and better
The likes of Courtnal Skosan and Raymond Rhule have hardly put a foot wrong and they have instead grown since making their debuts in June. Both wings have not seen much of the ball this season and have to do more tackling than running with ball in hand.
And when they get ball in hand, they lack the power to make those tackle-busting, try-scoring runs.
This is where Dillyn Leyds, Sbu Nkosi, Travis Ismaiel and Makazole Mapimpi come into the picture. They are big boys that can easily force their way through if they can’t run around and they have white line fever in bucket loads.
Jacques van der Westhuyzen
Fix the tighthead
The Boks have had to soldier on without their two first-choice tightheads this season, Julian Redelinghuys and Frans Malherbe, and while they’ve done well at scrum-time in patches, they’ve also struggled.
Coenie Oosthuizen, before his injury in Perth, was a revelation - finally! - but since he’s been crocked the Boks have battled. Period. Ruan Dreyer, for some strange and unknown reason, has struggled badly at Test level even though he’s been excellent in Super Rugby, but thank goodness Oosthuizen is fit again.
The Boks simply have to get their tighthead prop sorted out otherwise they could seriously struggle on the heavy fields in Europe.
Manage Marx carefully
It’s been a little odd how every rugby fan has all of a sudden woken up to the outstanding talents of hooker Malcolm Marx - he’s been in superb form for a good two years and already last year was considered one of world rugby’s most exciting prospects.
Anyway, he will play a huge role in Europe, with his line-out throwing the key part of his job. It wouldn’t be a bad idea though, with Marx having played so much rugby this season, that Coetzee and Co give the likes of Chiliboy Ralepelle and Bongi Mbonambi a few more, longer, opportunities to play. They deserve a crack and Marx deserves a break.
Sort out the No 6
For all the talent in South Africa and the quality loose-forwards in the domestic game and overseas, the Boks have just not been able to settle on the backrow this year.
It hasn’t helped of course that Warren Whiteley was injured in June and Jaco Kriel has also not been fit, while Duane Vermeulen hasn’t been able to play for the Boks in nearly two years.
But, Coetzee and his wise men will have to find a No 6 fetcher for the tour. Is Siya Kolisi the right man, because he’s hardly been as prominent as he was in the No 7 jumper with Kriel at 6? Or are the Bok coaching team happy enough for Marx to be the unofficial fetcher?
Find a No 8 please
As with the openside flank position, eighthman has been problematic, too, because of Whiteley and Vermeulen not being available.
Uzair Cassiem has been used there and not badly at all, but there’s a sense that the Boks need a specialist at the back of the scrum, someone who will bring more to the position.
Just not Francois Louw, who looked out of sorts at 8 at Newlands last weekend. Perhaps he must move back to the openside position, allowing Kolisi to slot in at 7 again (and let Pieter-Steph du Toit become a lock again).
Perhaps one of the Du Preez twins, Jean-Luc or Dan, must wear the No 8.
For all the talk about playing an expansive, ball-in-hand and quick-paced game, the Boks didn’t come close to upsetting the All Blacks last week with that kind of rugby.
They did it by reverting back to what the Boks do best: forward power and aggression. With Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitchoff, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Lood de Jager carrying strongly and hard, the Boks unsettled the best team on the planet and they will do the same to Ireland, France, Italy and Wales if they build on that showing.
The Boks, for now, must forget about fancy performances and focus on playing hard, aggressive rugby ... they need to win in Europe after the disaster of last season. Plain and simple.