Willie le Roux made the fullback position his own in the Heyneke Meyer era and should again get a look-in, mainly because so few other No 15s have come to the fore. Warrick Gelant of the Bulls was in good form before injury curtailed his involvement in Super Rugby and he may even be headed to Rio with the SA Sevens team in a few months’ time. That leaves Cheslin Kolbe who, while small, has been the best fullback in South Africa this season. Of course, with Pat Lambie back in the mix, he, too, could turn out in the last line of defence, while Jesse Kriel was excellent at fullback for the Bulls before shifting to the centres.
There are also plenty of options among the wings. The standout performers have been the Lions’ Ruan Combrinck and the Cheetahs’ Sergeal Petersen and both could be in line for higher honours next month. Others who’ve impressed in Super Rugby include Jamba Ulengo and Travis Ismaiel of the Bulls, while the experienced Bjorn Basson has had his moments, too, and at the Sharks the veteran duo of JP Pietersen and Lwazi Mvovo have been steady operators. The Lions’ Courtnall Skosan could be the surprise pick by Coetzee.
Bryan Habana is unavailable for the June Tests, but one wonders whether the Toulon-based flier’s days in the green and gold aren’t over.
There’s also no shortage of options among the midfielders. Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel were the first-choice pairing the last time the Boks were in action and should again crack Coetzee’s squad, but their places in the starting team are by no means guaranteed.
The Bulls’ Jan Serfontein is showing good form again, while Stormers’ skipper Juan de Jongh is a captaincy candidate and can play at both 12 and 13, like Serfontein. Then there’s Lionel Mapoe of the Lions, arguably the best performing No 13 in the country and a shoo-in for the side, while the Cheetahs’ Francois Venter has also delivered consistently strong performances in a struggling team.
Fortunately for Coetzee, Sharks’ No 10 Pat Lambie has returned to action and is showing good touches and he and the Lions’ Elton Jantjies are virtually guaranteed to be the No 10s when the squad is named – that’s if they remain fit and healthy. It’s unlikely the coach will call up any other flyhalf, so perhaps Morné Steyn’s days as a Bok are over. If there is to be a surprise it may come in the form of Johan Goosen, who covers fullback and inside centre.
It’s anyone’s guess who the coach will pick. Fourie du Preez has retired, Cobus Reinach is injured and Ruan Pienaar hasn’t delivered for his country as he has for his Irish club. The Bulls’ Rudy Paige, despite his wayward form, should get a look-in after going to the World Cup and being arguably SA’s best No 9 last year, while the Lions duo of Faf de Klerk and Ross Cronjé have been on top of their games for two seasons now. The Sharks’ Michael Claassens – mainly because of his experience – could be a surprise pick. The only other option is Francois Hougaard, but he’s set his sights on playing Sevens rugby at the Olympics and may only come into contention again next year.
Ask 50 people to pick six loosies and you won’t get two the same. Coetzee can pick virtually whoever he wants and those players won’t let the Boks down. It’s one department in which this country is richly blessed with talent so there will be the fortunate ones but also a number of very disappointed men. Much depends on whether Coetzee picks his two big overseas-based loose-forwards, Francois Louw and Duane Vermeulen, who are both in the running to captain the side. If the coach does pick them, it means he will only pick three other loosies from about 15 others good enough to play Test rugby: Lappies Labuschagne, Warren Whiteley, Jaco Kriel, Siya Kolisi, Nizaam Carr, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Paul Schoeman, Schalk Burger ... the list goes on and on.
Besides the selection of the flyhalves, this is probably the easiest pick Coetzee will have to make. Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Lood de Jager are certain of their places in the squad. They are all world-class operators and bring experience to the tight-five. The fourth lock is seemingly a choice between rookies Franco Mostert of the Lions and the Bulls’ RG Snyman, both of whom have been in wonderful form this year. Or, could Coetzee surprise by picking Oupa Mohoje, who can cover loose forward as well?
Again, there’s plenty of talent among the heavy boys up front so there will be some very disappointed players walking around next Sunday. If we accept Jannie du Plessis is out of the picture, then Frans Malherbe and Julian Redelinghuys must be the favourites to be the tighthead props. The experienced Beast Mtawarira must surely still be in the reckoning as first-choice loosehead, but Trevor Nyakane could well overtake him in the pecking order. Then there’s Vincent Koch, Marcel van der Merwe, Dylan Smith, Lizo Gqoboka and Coenie Oosthuizen… it’s a tough choice.
Will the experienced Bismarck du Plessis be brought back or has his time come and gone? Coetzee may well be of the opinion that there are more than enough quality hookers doing the rounds in South Africa to prevent him from looking Du Plessis’ way. Here one thinks of the Southern Kings’ Edgar Marutlulle, who’s enjoyed a fine season, the Stormers’ Scarra Ntubeni and Bongi Mbonambi, the Lions’ Malcolm Marx and Armand van der Merwe, and the Bulls’ captain Adriaan Strauss, who’s surely also a candidate to lead the side.
– The Sunday Independent
Original source: Who will crack the Bok nod?