Rugby Championship

Coetzee turns back time in bid for victory

2016-09-29 14:05

Cape Town - Say what you want about the inclusion of Morne Steyn and Pat Lambie in the Springbok side for Saturday's clash against the Wallabies at Loftus, but it does provide experience in abundance.

Going into what is a must-win Rugby Championship fixture for the Boks, this backline will have a combined 310 Test caps between them. 

The backline selected a fortnight ago in the 41-13 loss to the All Blacks had a combined tally of just 210 Tests, highlighting the difference Lambie (51 Tests) and Steyn (63 Tests) bring on that front.

However, both selections will raise eyebrows. 

Steyn, now 32, was not expected to feature for the Boks again following the 2015 Rugby World Cup. 

His qualities with the boot are unquestionable, but as South African fans and the SA Rugby board called for an evolution into a more attack-minded Springbok brand, Steyn's contribution to the national cause was seen as surplus to requirements by many. 

Injuries to Handre Pollard and then to Lambie opened the door for Steyn once more, but the backing was still with Lions playmaker Elton Jantjies, who was seen as the catalyst to help spark this new enterprising approach. 

Jantjies, though, has struggled. 

He has not managed games, has been inconsistent with the boot and has now lost the faith of his coach. 

It depends which camp you're in. 

If the only goal is preparing for the 2019 World Cup, then it surely makes more sense to play Jantjies again, or at least somebody who could be featuring for the Boks in Japan. 

But, right now, Coetzee needs a win more than anything.

In his time of crisis, Steyn is the man he has turned to. 

The under-fire coach will expect his flyhalf, back on familiar turf in front of the Loftus faithful, to kick his goals and boot the Boks into the right areas of the park. 

It may not seem like a decision that is taking South African rugby forward, but it is one that Coetzee can get away with if Steyn immediately does the above. 

The Lambie selection is more interesting. 

Having played just 35 minutes of rugby since June 11 when he was knocked out cold by Ireland's CJ Stander in Cape Town, concerns over Lambie's sharpness can be understood. 

Furthermore, under Heyneke Meyer, Lambie was told that he was only a flyhalf.

One would have to go all the way back to November 2013 to find the last time that Lambie started a Test at fullback - the Boks beating Wales 24-15 in Cardiff that day.

At the Sharks, Lambie only plays flyhalf. 

Johan Goosen, Coetzee's replacement at fullback for the out-of-sorts Willie le Roux after the Ireland series, has been axed from the squad completely. 

That is perhaps the toughest call of the lot from Coetzee. 

While the Boks struggled on attack for most of their trip to Australasia, Goosen did at least provide the odd spark and certainly looked one of the more dangerous backliners with ball in hand. 

Le Roux has been called back into the squad, but he will sit on the bench behind Lambie.

There is no doubting Lambie's ability to perform as the last line - he has done so on numerous occasions - but the major worry remains his readiness. Coetzee has obviously seen enough at training. 

There is an element of the 'old' about the Boks this weekend.

Everyone wants tries, everyone wants excitement and everyone wants the Boks to pretty much be the Kiwis.

But those battles are for another day. If the Boks win 24-23 via 8 Morne Steyn penalties on Saturday, there would be few complaints. 

It's been a torrid old time, and only a win can start easing the pain. 


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