Jesse Kriel is tackled by France’s Geoffrey Doumayrou (left) and Mathieu Bastareaud ( during the Springboks' narrow win in Paris. Photo: EPA/YOAN VALAT
Jesse Kriel is tackled by France’s Geoffrey Doumayrou (left) and Mathieu Bastareaud ( during the Springboks' narrow win in Paris. Photo: EPA/YOAN VALAT
Sharks centre Lukhanyo Am in action during the 2017 Currie Cup semi-final against the Blue Bulls. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix
Sharks centre Lukhanyo Am in action during the 2017 Currie Cup semi-final against the Blue Bulls. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix
CAPE TOWN - If one formula doesn’t work, or if it hasn’t been working, surely one should try another? It’s really that simple, I’d say. But that doesn’t always seem to be the case, or not with the Springboks, that is.

The Springboks have been testing certain formulae over and over again - formulas that have clearly failed to provide a solution - yet they consistently decide to stick with those selections. And Jesse Kriel is one of those. Kriel is a Bok-backline regular, although he’s done very little of late to justify the trust that has been shown in him.

For someone who’s started in every single one of the Springboks’ Tests this year, Kriel hasn’t done enough, on current form, to keep other guys out.

And if you look at what Springbok coach Allister Coetzee said on Monday - that he will select his “strongest possible team” for their match in Padova - I don’t see anything changing on the Springbok scoresheet for their fixture against Italy. Because, I guess, for the Boks, “strong” means experienced.

Coetzee also said that the players who form part of the wider training group would get an opportunity against Wales on December 2, as that clash falls outside of the Test window.

But why? Why keep form players around for nothing? Lukhanyo Am is one of those players just getting used to the Springbok set-up, and there are a couple of others who can be mentioned as well. And although the entire Bok backline, especially the outside backs and flyhalf, of course, has been a big talking point, so is midfield.

Kriel has partnered with Jan Serfontein and he’s partnered with Damian de Allende, and although he’s been given more than enough chances to make an impact, the only constant traits in his performances have been his knack for lateral running and his apparent inability to create space. On current form he appears to lack two must-haves for an outside centre - good running lines and vision, and it seems like his eye for the gap has gone missing as well.

It doesn’t matter how much of a quality player Kriel is - the Test arena shouldn’t be a place to regain form, it should be the ultimate reward for superb form. So again, where is Lukhanyo Am?

At Stade de France at the weekend, Francois Venter sparked some optimism in the No 12 jersey. Venter looked good, and although it wasn’t a flawless performance, it was a positive to at least see some impact in midfield.

Am missed out on selection for the Rugby Championship earlier this season, and that was shocking enough. So it would be criminal if he had to return to South Africa without a single Test appearance this time.

The top-performing Sharks man can offer the Boks so much. There’s his obvious elusive footwork, his ability to read the game, his ability to attack the gain line and, overall, his eagerness and massive work-rate. Do the Springboks not need that?

Coetzee is probably going to give some players a chance against Wales. But why only then? After all, Am is a risk worth taking, and if you look at his Super Rugby form over the last two years, “risk” isn’t even a word that should be in the same sentence as “Am”. It’s time for Am to get a proper chance.

Cape Times

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