JOHANNESBURG - Eben Etzebeth will in all probability continue with the captaincy duties in Warren Whiteley’s absence, but who takes over the Springbok No 8 jersey is not so clear cut.
Whiteley’s groin injury - picked up in the second Test against France in June and which forced him out of the third Test and the Lions’ Super Rugby play-offs - has left the eighthman sidelined for the foreseeable future.
Etzebeth captained the Boks in the third Test and is likely to continue in the role until Whiteley returns to the national team, but Jean-Luc du Preez, who deputised at eighthman in the third Test against France at Ellis Park, is not likely to stay in that role when the Rugby Championship starts next weekend.
At Ellis Park, Du Preez played at eight, Siya Kolisi was at six and Jaco Kriel came in at seven.
However, with Oupa Mohoje back in the mix and Uzair Cassiem and Jean-Luc’s brother, Dan, now also in the Bok squad, the make-up of the loose-trio could be a little different to what we saw in the third Test.
Also, the inclusion of the exciting Warrick Gelant gives coach Allister Coetzee a few options in the back three, while he’ll also keep a close eye on flyhalf Handre Pollard, who’s battled injuries for nearly two years.
The good news is Sharks star Curwin Bosch finally cracks the squad after missing out in June to play for the Junior Boks and he, too, will be considered at fullback and flyhalf, further strengthening the squad.
The biggest surprise in the squad is the omission of Lions wing Ruan Combrinck. He is unfortunate to miss out after returning from injury and showing in the past few weeks what he could offer the national team in terms of raw pace and strength out wide. He’s also an outstanding defender and kicks superbly off both feet.
Coetzee will again consider Raymond Rhule, Courtnall Skosan and Dillyn Leyds on the wings.
The Bok squad will gather in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday to start preparations for the first Test of the Rugby Championship, against Argentina on August 19.
Coetzee said he was pleased he was able to keep changes to the squad to a minimum.