JOHANNESBURG – Springbok coach Allister Coetzee names his 34-man squad on Sunday for the four-Test tour of Europe starting next week.
Here rugby writer Vata Ngobeni analyses the backline options available to the coach for matches against Ireland (November 11), France (November 18), Italy (November 25) and Wales (December 2)
Andries Coetzee remains one of the safest selections Allister Coetzee has in his team and he can never be faulted for being consistent in playing him in every Test so far this year.
But safe doesn’t cut it in Test rugby and a little bit of something extra is what the Boks need to be able to dissect teams from the back.
Warrick Gelant is that player who possesses that X-factor and he has been in red hot form for the Bulls in the Currie Cup. Gelant is beyond safe, he is the Boks’ hope of scoring tries and winning matches.
Courtnall Skosan and Dillyn Leyds have hardly done anything wrong. Skosan has played in every Test since making his debut against France in June, and has only started showing what a threat he is with ball-in-hand towards the end of the Rugby Championship.
Leyds has only had two starts after replacing Raymond Rhule and has had no opportunities to show the immense talent he possesses. A bit of size would certainly help on the wings, with Makazole Mapimpi, Travis Ismaiel and Sbu Nkosi knocking hard on the door. Pity that Nkosi is injured, but Mapimpi and Ismaiel should be given a chance.
This is an area where the Boks stocks need to be fattened, and with Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel not as convincing, Allister Coetzee has the perfect opportunity to throw in a few top performers.
Serfontein has shown glimpses of what made him the best junior player in the world a few years ago, while Kriel is struggling with regaining the form that booked him his ticket to the Rugby World Cup two years ago.
The time is ripe for Lukhanyo Am, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Francois Venter and even EW Viljoen to have a fair crack at the midfield berths.
Elton Jantjies has held his own at No 10, but has struggled to replicate the scintillating form he showed for the Lions. It could just be a conservative game plan that prevents him from playing his natural running game or trying too much to prove his detractors wrong.
But Jantjies doesn’t look in control and assured in the Green and Gold as he is for the Lions.
Handré Pollard is eagerly awaiting his chance to regain a jersey that belonged to him before a string of injuries struck. Wonderkids Curwin Bosch and Damian Willemse have proven that they are ready for the big time.
Again another position where Ross Conjé is a safe selection and the best of what has been ordinary performances from the country’s number nines.
In the absence of a genius like Fourie du Preez, and Francois Hougaard having lost his mojo, the Boks have had to settle with the safety of Cronjé and Rudy Paige, who is clearly low on confidence.
Opportunity should be given to Louis Schreuder, who has been consistent for the Kings and Sharks this year.
Taking Junior Springbok scrumhalf Embrose Papier on tour won’t be a bad idea as he could be the long-term solution to the ordinary.