PRETORIA - In what has been widely speculated to be Springbok coach Allister Coetzee’s last game in charge of the team, the Grahamstown-born mentor has stubbornly been reluctant to make any meaningful and significant changes to his team to play against Wales.
But it doesn’t seem as though Coetzee has been bothered or taken heed of the cloud that hangs over him and his future with the team as he has continued to be loyal to his conservative approach and to players who have been ineffective in repaying that loyalty.
As expected as it was for Coetzee to go with Steven Kitshoff in place of the injured Tendai Mtawarira at loosehead prop, the biggest question would be over his insistence on choosing Malcolm Marx at hooker ahead of Bongi Mbonambi, who had a blinder last week against Italy and would have been in familiar surroundings with his fellow Stormers players.
Coetzee’s biggest mistake on team selection has been the inability to choose players in their rightful positions, with Pieter-Steph du Toit playing at flank and Warrick Gelant thrown into the unfamiliar wing position.
The Du Toit experiment at blindside has not been successful, with the Boks' only victory with Du Toit at No 7 coming last week against Italy. But it is Gelant’s selection that will throw the cat among the pigeons and amplify calls for Coetzee to be fired.
Gelant has been in sublime form for the Bulls at fullback and not only is he a player who needs to be closer to the ball, but his selection at fullback would have been the most logical.
While Gelant’s selection on the wing was puzzling, the reluctance to start with Rudy Paige at scrumhalf and to still have Louis Schreuder on the bench defies logic as there is nothing more Ross Cronje can do to justify his place in the starting team.
How Lukhanyo Am also missed out on a place in the starting line-up will be a question Coetzee will need to answer on the day of his review in two weeks’ time, as Jesse Kriel has failed to rekindle the form that made him a Springbok three years ago.
Ultimately, Coetzee will have to stand by his selections and accept his fate in the same way he has been stubborn and reluctant to make the changes that will not only save the Bok team but his job as well.
Allister Coetzee, in his own words
"We expect another gruelling contest against a strong Welsh team. It is another opportunity for this side to develop and grow, playing at the Principality Stadium in front of a passionate crowd of more than 65,000. It will be a different challenge altogether this week - Wales are renowned for their passing game and their width on attack."
On the changes in the team, with Dan Du Preez starting at eighthman:
"Dan gets the chance to start and he fits into the plan for Saturday."
On Warrick Gelant making his starting debut:
"Warrick is an elusive runner, he used his opportunity last week and I am looking forward to see him getting a start on Saturday."
On the return of Malcolm Marx:
"It is great to welcome Malcolm back. However, Bongi did a superb job against Italy and I expect the same performance from him when he comes on later in the game."
On the battle for line-out possession:
"I decided to select two loose forwards onto the bench because Pieter-Steph du Toit can cover lock, while Oupa and Uzair each have a skills set that can fit into different roles when needed.”
Springbok team: Andries Coetzee, Dillyn Leyds, Jesse Kriel, Francois Venter, Warrick Gelant, Handre Pollard, Ross Cronje, Dan du Preez, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth (capt), Wilco Louw, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff; Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Trevor Nyakane, Ruan Dreyer, Oupa Mohoje, Uzair Cassiem, Louis Schreuder, Elton Jantjies, Lukhanyo Am.