JOHANNESBURG – In spite of Francois Hougaard possessing plenty of flair and X-factor qualities, Springbok coach Allister Coetzee says the 29-year-old must focus only on doing the basics well.
The Boks go into the third Test against France at Ellis Park on Saturday 2-0 up in the series, but will be gunning for a whitewash at a venue where several of the Bok players have shone and ripped teams to shreds in Super Rugby.
No less than seven Lions players are in the starting team for the match, the newest being tighthead prop Ruan Dreyer.
Hougaard comes in for another Lions man, Ross Cronje, who was ruled out earlier in the week because of concussion.
The former Bulls man, who now plays for Worcester Warriors in the English Premiership, has played off the bench in the first two Tests. Coetzee said on Thursday that Hougaard would bring plenty of experience to a young backline.
“Obviously scrumhalf is a key position; it is part of the team’s spine,” said Coetzee, “but Francois brings a lot of experience to the backs. And the good thing is he’s been playing scrumhalf all season for Worcester, for 80 minutes at a time, and he’s been exceptional.
“He’s not a wing (where he’s played for the Boks before)... number nine is his best position. He’ll bring power and pace to the position, and he’ll ask questions around the fringes, but more than anything, I want him to do his basics well,” said Coetzee.
“I want Francois to get to the breakdowns quickly, and get the ball out so we can play with the backs. There’s no pressure on him to do anything special... he must just do his job.”
With 41 Test caps, Hougaard is by far the most experienced back in the team for Saturday’s match.
The other major newcomer to the starting team is Dreyer, who takes over from Frans Malherbe, as Coetzee looks to grow the “capacity” among the tighthead props.
“This is an opportunity for us to build that capacity. We have two great tightheads in Frans and Coenie (Oosthuizen), but it’s always healthy to have a well stocked tighthead prop cupboard.
“Ruan fully deserves this chance. He’s been excellent for the Lions for some time now, and this is the right time to give him a go.”
Jean-Luc du Preez takes over at No 7 from the concussed Oupa Mohoje, while at outside centre, Jesse Kriel returns for Lionel Mapoe.
“Jean-Luc has grabbed his opportunity coming off the bench, while I’m pleased to see Jesse next to Jan Serfontein again. Jesse is an excellent communicator and he’s built a good partnership with Jan. He’s an out-and-out 13, and with his pace and guile and the width he gives us at 13, he covers the wide channels very well,” explained Coetzee.
Fit-again flank Jaco Kriel will also get an opportunity to play in front of his home fans as he’s won a place on the bench, now that Du Preez has moved into the starting team.
The Bok boss said he was hoping for an improvement in all departments at Ellis Park, where a fast and open game is expected to be played.
“I definitely want to see progression in all areas. We need to execute better, finish off the chances we create, we need to up the effort and intensity, especially because we’re playing on the highveld this week. And I’d like us to show greater accuracy with ball-in-hand,” said Coetzee.
“The plan is simple... there is clarity about what we want to do. We must just go out there and do it now.”
Andries Coetzee, Raymond Rhule, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Francois Hougaard, Warren Whiteley (captain), Jean-Luc du Preez, Siya Kolisi, Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx, Tendai Mtawarira.
Bench: Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff, Coenie Oosthuizen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jaco Kriel, Rudy Paige, Frans Steyn, Dillyn Leyds.