Three things the Springboks need to think about for their Rugby Championship tour
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CAPE TOWN - AT last, the Springboks will travel to Australia today to complete the rest of the Rugby Championship.
They will have to undergo two weeks of quarantine once they arrive in Brisbane, but will be allowed to train fully, as they did back home over the last few months, in preparation for the four Tests that they will play Down Under.
Siya Kolisi’s team will take on the Wallabies on Sunday, September 12 on the Gold Coast, before facing the All Blacks in the 100th Test between the two teams on Saturday, September 18 at the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane – about an hour’s drive north.
The Boks will then move on to Townsville, which is a two-hour flight north from Brisbane, for a second match against the Australians on September 25.
They will return to the Gold Coast for the final match of their campaign against New Zealand on October 2.
Coach Jacques Nienaber will be pleased with his team’s progress this season, having beaten Georgia and clinched the British & Irish Lions series, before getting past Argentina twice in Gqeberha over the last two weekends.
But here are three issues that the Bok boss and his management team should consider in plotting their path to victory …
Aphelele Fassi needs to start at fullback
Calling for the 23-year-old Sharks star to get a run in the No 15 jersey is no slight on incumbent Willie le Roux, who was excellent in the Lions series.
Ideally, both players should start a Test each against Australia and New Zealand anyway, due to the demands of four massive encounters in as many weeks.
While Fassi has looked assured at left wing in the few Tests that he has played, he can have even more of an impact as a fullback. He showed what he could do in that position for SA ‘A’ against the Lions in a tour match, with his ability to come into the line on attack in classic style making him a real threat to the opposition.
As a youngster, he obviously has more pace than Le Roux too, and his positional play and fielding of up-and-unders is top-notch.
Fassi can bring a fresh and different dynamic on attack at No 15 to Le Roux, who is more of a second playmaker with ball-in-hand.
Le Roux is still the No 1 choice at the moment, but Fassi must be given a proper opportunity to continue growing until he eventually becomes the first-choice fullback.
More locks must be blooded
The unexpected unavailability of Lood de Jager initially, as well as RG Snyman, disrupted the Boks’ plans much more than what it looked like from the outset.
The major problem was that it affected the dynamics of the ‘Bomb Squad’ ploy that was so successful at the World Cup, where Snyman and Franco Mostert would come on in the second half in either the second row or loose trio to terrorise the opposition even further.
But with no Snyman up to now, and Mostert starting the season at No 5 – before De Jager was ready to start – and then having to wear the No 7 jersey following Pieter-Steph du Toit’s injury totally threw the Bomb Squad trick out of kilter.
Even though Snyman is expected to get back on to the pitch for the Boks on this tour, the coaches perhaps missed a trick by not picking another player in a similar mould as a back-up. Both Marvin Orie and Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg are mainly No 5s who excel in the line-outs.
Someone like the Sharks’ robust Le Roux Roets should have been looked at in the absence of the injured Salmaan Moerat.
But Orie and Janse van Rensburg will be on tour, and must be given more game time.
Finding the best front row
There has been lots of interchanging of props over the last few weeks, with Trevor Nyakane even being expected to help out on both sides of the scrum.
And while the Bulls stalwart has done well in both positions, the Bok coaches should make a call on whether he is a loosehead or tighthead once and for all, considering the incredible depth in both positions at the moment.
While it is all good and well to rotate players, there should be a clear first-choice front row – is it the familiar Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi and Frans Malherbe?
Where does Nyakane fit in? What about Ox Nche, who was superb in the first Test against the Lions, but sustained a neck injury?
Both Vincent Koch and Thomas du Toit have a lot to offer at tighthead, and then we haven’t even seen the likes of Joburg Lions duo Sti Sithole and Carlu Sadie in the Bok set-up as yet. The best front row must face the All Blacks in the 100th Test between the two nations.