In the buildup to the Springboks’ Rugby Championship Test match against Australia in Bloemfontein, coach Allister Coetzee has faced some selection criticism. He justified the continued exclusion of one of the country’s best wingers, Ruan Combrinck on the grounds that the Lions speedster had not had enough game time. Coetzee couldn’t explain why such logic didn’t apply to Handre Pollard, who has had very little rugby action while recovering from injury yet has been in Coetzee’s squad, coming on as a replacement in the ill-fated game against the All Blacks. He was also criticized for having said that he wouldn’t simply discard a player based on one bad performance, yet Raymond Rhule got the sack after a dismal match against New Zealand. To be fair, Rhule has battled to make the step-up to international level and Dillyn Leyds was worth trying out on the right wing. The back line is strengthened by the return of the wily Ross Cronje at scrumhalf, while Francois Louw’s return to the Bok team after missing the series against France and the earlier Rugby Championship matches was expected after the Bath flanker was put on standby as soon as he had recovered from injury. Coetzee is confident the Boks can win their remaining two Test matches. After the historic defeat against the All Blacks, things surely can’t get any worse. – David O’Sullivan
A first Test start for Dillyn Leyds and Francois Louw’s inclusion in the back row are two of the four changes to the Springbok squad to face the Wallabies in Saturday’s important Castle Lager Rugby Championship match in Bloemfontein.
The experienced flanker is set to earn his 53rd Test cap for the Springboks at the Toyota Stadium, while Leyds will make his fourth appearance and first start on the wing, in place of Raymond Rhule.
Scrumhalf Ross Cronje is over his illness that forced him to withdraw from the New Zealand Test in Albany, while hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle has been included in the match 23 for the first time since the home Test against Italy in June 2013. The experienced Cell C Sharks hooker got the nod over Bongi Mbonambi, who played off the bench in the previous seven Test this year.
According to Coetzee, the inclusion of the seasoned Louw will be valuable to the team.
“Francois showed this week that he is in a great condition and he brings a lot of experience to the team,” said Coetzee.
“I believe his strength is playing towards the ball, and he is renowned for making good decisions at the defensive breakdown. As a result Jean-Luc moves back to the bench, from where he can make a telling impact.”
On Leyds’ inclusion, Coetzee said: “It’s now the right time to give Dillyn a starting opportunity as I know what I have in Raymond. “Dillyn has played consistently well in the Currie Cup and deserves a chance. Raymond stays part of our plan and will join up with the squad next week in Cape Town again.”
Cronje takes over the scrumhalf duties from Francois Hougaard, who started against New Zealand, while Rudy Paige will provide No 9 cover off the bench.
“It is great to resume the continuity between Ross and Elton Jantjies as a halfback combination. All three of our scrumhalves looked sharp during training this week,” said Coetzee.
The Springbok coach said he is expecting his team to deliver a vastly improved performance against Australia this weekend.
“Our preparations have gone well this week and the players are excited and eager to improve on our previous performance,” said Coetzee.
“The Wallabies are a good side with many dangerous and classy players across the board. And they would have gained a lot of confidence from their previous outings.”
The Springbok team to face Australia in Bloemfontein:
15. Andries Coetzee (fullback), Emirates Lions – 7 caps, 0 points
14. Dillyn Leyds (wing), DHL Stormers – 3 caps, 0 points
13. Jesse Kriel (centre), Vodacom Bulls – 23 caps, 30 points (6 tries)
12. Jan Serfontein (centre), Vodacom Bulls – 33 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
11. Courtnall Skosan (wing), Emirates Lions – 7 caps, 5 points (1 try)
10. Elton Jantjies (flyhalf), Emirates Lions / NTT Shining Arcs (Japan) – 18 caps, 179 points (2 tries, 32 conversions, 35 penalties)
9. Ross Cronje (scrumhalf) Emirates Lions – 4 caps, 5 points (1 try)
8. Uzair Cassiem (flank), Toyota Cheetahs – 5 caps, 5 points (1 try)
7. Francois Louw (flank), Bath (England) – 52 caps, 40 points (8 tries)
6. Siya Kolisi (flank), DHL Stormers – 23 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
5. Franco Mostert (lock), Emirates Lions / Ricoh Black Rams (Japan) – 13 caps, 0 points
4. Eben Etzebeth (lock, captain), DHL Stormers – 61 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
3. Ruan Dreyer (prop), Emirates Lions – 2 caps, 0 points
2. Malcolm Marx (hooker), Emirates Lions – 9 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
1. Tendai Mtawarira (prop), Cell C Sharks – 94 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
16. Chiliboy Ralepelle (hooker), Cell C Sharks – 22 caps, 5 points (1 try)
17. Steven Kitshoff (prop), DHL Stormers – 17 caps, 0 points
18. Trevor Nyakane (prop), Vodacom Bulls – 32 caps, 5 points (1 try)
19. Pieter-Steph du Toit (lock), DHL Stormers – 27 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
20. Jean-Luc du Preez (loose forward), Cell C Sharks – 8 caps, 5 points (1 try)
21. Rudy Paige (scrumhalf), Vodacom Bulls – 10 caps, 5 points (1 try)
22. Handré Pollard (flyhalf) Vodacom Bulls – 21 caps, 188 points (2 tries, 29 conversions, 37 penalties, 3 drop goals)
23. Damian de Allende (centre), DHL Stormers – 25 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
Facts and stats:
• Saturday’s Test match will be the Springboks’ fourth against Australia at this venue in Bloemfontein.
• The Springbok record for the previous three matches is: P 3; W 2; L 1; PF: 83; PA: 68; TF: 7; TA: 7; Average score: 28-23. Win%: 67%.
• South Africa’s overall record at the Toyota Stadium is: P 18; W 13; L 4; D 1; PF: 504; PA: 307; TF: 57; TA: 28; Average score: 28-17. Win%: 72%.
• South Africa’s overall record against Australia is: P: 84; W: 46; L: 36; D: 2; PF: 1 630; PA: 1 471; TF: 190; TA: 150; Average score: 19-18. Win%: 55%.
• The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 354. There are 95 caps in the backline with 259 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench, there are a further 162 caps.
• The average caps per player in the backline are 14, the forwards 32 while the players on the bench average 20.
• The average age of the starting 15 is 27.
• Tendai Mtawarira will extend his record as the most-capped Springbok prop, with 95 caps in this position. He is the third most experienced Springbok forward behind Victor Matfield and John Smit.
• Mtawarira will also play in his 44th Castle Lager Rugby Championship Test match, only the fourth Springbok behind Bryan Habana (53), Jean de Villiers (50) and Victor Matfield (48) to play in 40 or more matches in this competition.
• It will also be the 32nd consecutive Test match which for “Beast”, will move him into third position for most consecutive Tests. Only John Smit (46) and Gary Teichmann (39) played in more consecutive Tests.
• And Mtawarira is set to extend his Springbok record to 34 consecutive Test matches in the Tri-Nations/Castle Lager Rugby Championship.
• Elton Jantjies needs 21 points to reach 200 points in Tests for South Africa.
• Handré Pollard needs 12 points to reach 200 points in Tests for South Africa.