PRETORIA – Injuries have largely evaded the Springbok squad in their build-up to the Rugby World Cup, leaving coach Rassie Erasmus with another conundrum.
Who to leave out?
Erasmus made contingency plans in case injuries happened, particularly among his loose forwards, but the worst-case scenario never came to pass. Touch wood.
There was the odd niggle before the group assembled in Pretoria nearly two months ago, with captain Siya Kolisi recovering from injury and Warren Whiteley in a race against time to be fit for selection.
But Erasmus’ loose forward pantry is well-stocked at the moment to such an extent he could make a few experimental changes for their Farewell Test against Argentina in Pretoria on Saturday.
This weekend will see Marcell Coetzee don the No 8 jersey – where he regularly slots in for Ulster – which will be an unusual sight for Springbok fans.
“When we put the squad together initially, and we got Rynhardt Elstadt and Marcell Coetzee in here, and Siya was doubtful, we thought we would get injuries somewhere along the line,” Erasmus said.
“So far we haven’t had a lot of big injuries, and hopefully it will stay like that. Francois Louw can cover us at eight, and we know Duane (Vermeulen) can do it.
“We know what Marcell can do at openside, and it is a nice opportunity for him to show his versatility there.
“Whether he is in the 31-man squad or the extended 37-man squad, it is nice to know what he can do at eight as well.”
Coetzee’s last appearance for the Boks was in their first defeat to Argentina on home soil in Durban in 2015.
The versatile loose forward was named as standby for the previous World Cup, and could once again be fulfilling that role again for the Japan showpiece, starting next month.
A series of knee injuries have kept Coetzee out of the Bok fold, but he has proven his class by fighting his way back into contention.
“If you were to tell me a year ago that I would be here, I would have said ‘No way’,” Coetzee said.
“It has been a great journey for me so far. A year ago, I was thinking about retirement at one stage with the continuous niggles I had.
“But being back in the mix with the Boks and with your friends, I am soaking up everything.”