JOHANNESBURG - If the Springboks are going to pose any threat to Australia in Brisbane on Saturday then Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus is going to have to make some big calls on his team selections.
After the Springboks inept performance that led to their defeat against Argentina in Mendoza a fortnight ago, it became glaringly obvious that change needs to come within the starting line-up - particularly at loose forward and in the midfield.
Former captain Warren Whiteley and Francois Louw will be at the top of Erasmus' culling list after both offered little to the forwards charge and further exacerbated the imbalance that was already there in the loose forward trio.
Whiteley will undoubtedly be a big loss to the side when it comes to his leadership abilities but unfortunately for him, those leadership qualities have done little to enhance and justify his place in the team in the two Tests played since his return.
Erasmus will also have to consider Whiteley’s lack of bulk in a competition that increasingly requires the Springboks to add brawn especially amongst their forwards if they are to dominate the set phases and the battle of attrition that so often wins Test matches.
But Whiteley should not bear the blame for underperforming alone, as Louw’s contribution to the Springboks’ has done little to justify his continuation as the fetcher in the side. At his best, Louw is a nuisance for opposition teams at the breakdown and his tireless toil is an asset to any formidable forward pack.
While captain Siya Kolisi has not really set the world alight with his performances either, the man with no specific designation within the loose trio showed some glimpses of his ball carrying abilities in Mendoza and for that should be retained and the fact that he is the leader of the side.
Who then must Erasmus consider to bolster the loose forwards. Well, Marco van Staden did a sterling job for the Bulls at number six and was one of Super Rugby’s top turnover specialists which will come in handy when playing against the Wallabies who thrive on possession. Van Staden is also a proven ball carrier and doesn’t stand back in getting involved in the dirty work often left to the tight five to do.
Sikhumbuzo Notshe may be seen as a super sub in the same mould as Bob Skinstad but it would be worth the exercise for Erasmus to have the Stormers eighthman start the game as the Springboks look to inject speed from the kick-off and Notshe would be the kind of link man that Erasmus is looking for.
The midfield is also cause for concern as the Sharks pairing of Andre Esterhuizen and Lukhanyo Am have been sterile on attack while their defence has looked shaky at best in the two Tests against the Pumas.
This is where Erasmus will probably be tempted to go for the experience of Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel who both had stellar outings with the national team at the same venue three years ago.
At the same time, Erasmus will also be faced with another selection poser at flyhalf on whether to persist with the misfiring Handre Pollard or hand Elton Jantjies another opportunity or unleash the inexperienced but exciting talent that is Damian Willemse.
And if change in personnel is the key to unlocking the Springboks return to winning ways then the uncapped Cheslin Kolbe’s involvement, even off the bench, could be vital in seeing the Springboks to victory.