JOHANNESBURG – One thing the Springboks won’t be short of tomorrow is workhorses.
The Boks may be giving up a few kilos, and lacking some brawn, because of Eben Etzebeth’s absence, but with Franco Mostert back in the team, the visitors will have a super mobile, and extremely hard-working lock pairing and back row.
And their engines will keep going and going, until coach Rassie Erasmus deems they can do no more.
With Mostert coming in to partner Pieter-Steph du Toit in the second row, the Boks will have two locks against France in Paris who are renowned for their work-rate and tackling ability. And let’s not forget, both men have regularly played at blindside flank, so there’s plenty of mobility there, too.
And then, with Erasmus sticking with the same loose trio that ran out a week ago, and rightly so, the Boks have got more men who seem to never run out of gas.
Warren Whiteley has been one of Super Rugby’s biggest tacklers in recent years, topping the hits-list on several occasions, while captain Siya Kolisi’s tackle rate and work effort this year have gone through the roof. They are also players who get through plenty of work as carriers, and will be ably supported by Duane Vermeulen - who’ll take on a greater ball-carrying role now that Etzebeth is missing. He’s no slouch when it comes to tackling either.
It is not surprising that Erasmus has stuck with the same men up front for this week’s Test - bar of course, Mostert coming in for Etzebeth. The Bok pack did well last weekend at Twickenham and dominated in several areas.
The only real department of concern, and which Erasmus & Co will hope is much-improved this week, will be the lineouts where Malcolm Marx missed his jumpers on four occasions.
Mostert is one of six overseas-based players included after not being available last week.
Willie le Roux and Faf de Klerk certainly strengthen the side at scrumhalf and fullback - and as regular starters this year were always going to get picked ahead of the younger rookies. One has to feel for Damian Willemse, who started at No 15 last week and is now out of the match-23 completely.
On the bench, Vincent Koch gets an opportunity, coming in for Wilco Louw, and his experience of scrumming in northern-hemisphere conditions and against some of the Frenchmen will also boost the Bok set-piece.
Francois Louw, with 62 caps, is the most senior man in the matchday squad and a player who is as rated by Erasmus. Again, the Bok coach has gone for experience, but it would have been nice to see Sikhumbuzo Notshe, with his pace, getting a go this week.
Cheslin Kolbe’s X-factor and experience would have got him the nod ahead of Willemse, and you can’t argue too much about that. Perhaps Willemse could have stayed in the side though and got a chance as Handre Pollard’s back-up this week, with Elton Jantjies sitting out. The Lions’ man’s squad place is safe and secure so Willemse getting an opportunity to maybe play at No 10 wouldn’t have been a bad move this week.
All in all, it’s a very solid Bok squad. They now need to perform as well as they look.
The teams for Saturday's Test in Paris are:
Maxime Medard, Teddy Thomas, Mathieu Bastareaud, Geoffrey Doumayrou, Damian Penaud, Camille Lopez, Baptiste Serin, Louis Picamoles, Arthur Iturria, Wenceslas Lauret, Yoann Maestri, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Cedate Gomes Sa, Guilhem Guirado (capt), Jefferson Poirot.
Replacements: Camille Chat, Dany Priso, Rabah Slimani, Paul Gabrillagues, Mathieu Babillot, Antoine Dupont, Anthony Belleau, Gael Fickou
Willie le Roux, S’bu Nkosi, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Handre Pollard, Faf de Klerk, Warren Whiteley, Duane Vermeulen, Siya Kolisi (capt), Franco Mostert, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: Bongi Mbonambi, Thomas du Toit, Vincent Koch, RG Snyman, Francois Louw, Embrose Papier, Elton Jantjies, Cheslin Kolbe@jacq_west