Cape Town - Ahead of what may well be his final Test in charge, Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has once again baffled all and sundry with his selection suggestions.
The Boks take on Wales in Cardiff on Saturday (kick-off 19:30 SA time) in what will be the 12th and final Test in what has become an annus horribilis for the national team - and more so for their suffering fans.
Coetzee's current Test record reads: Played 11, won 4, lost 7 for a 36% win ratio which ranks as the WORST for any Springbok coach since readmission in his first 11 Tests at the helm.
While many called for Coetzee to rest his 'A' team players for last Saturday's Test against Italy (as the All Blacks did - and won 68-10 the weekend prior), Coetzee resisted the urge to change and selected his best available match-day 23.
Coetzee on Monday explained his Italian selections, stating, “The philosophy behind my selection for the Italy game was that I wanted to get some continuity going from the England match and then hopefully that would help us really be ready for the Wales game.”
Quite why he felt the need to continue with a beaten bunch is baffling to say the least, but Coetzee wasn't done there!
“But we did not get the result we wanted so I have to rethink that. I have to give opportunities now to other players. There are other young players who have worked really hard in training on this tour but haven’t played as yet. They deserve a chance and I am going to try and get them that opportunity against Wales.
“I want to use that match to look at the future so we know where we are next year. We want to finish on a high. It has been a disappointing year for us and the defeat against Italy was a real low, but all we can do now is try and resurrect some pride by playing really well against Wales so at least we can end the year on a positive note.”
BOOM! There you have it. In black and white.
So continuity is now out the window and Coetzee has suggested he'll be rewarding those tackle bag carriers and water boys who have spent the past three Saturdays twiddling their thumbs.
Players like Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Jamba Ulengo, Lionel Mapoe, Jean-Luc du Preez, Malcolm Marx, Sergeal Petersen and Piet van Zyl can now fire up the butterflies and expect to hear their names read out at the team announcement on Thursday (15:00 SA time).
But Coetzee's timing is woeful as he's forgetting one crucial thing about Saturday's match: It's potentially THE most important Test the Springboks will play this year!
Forget this nonsense about "resurrecting some pride by playing really well". The fact of the matter is due to the manner in which the Rugby World Cup draw is conducted, the Boks simply have to emerge victorious come that final whistle from Romain Poite (shudder the thought) around 21:15 (SA time) on Saturday - to give themselves the best chance of success in three years time.
Monday's release of the latest World Rugby rankings saw the Boks slip to fifth place and outside the all-important top four positions which has serious implications for the Bok challenge at the next World Cup to be played in Japan in 2019.
The Top 4 ranked sides as at May 2017 will headline each of the four groups in Japan.
We all saw just how important a favourable ranking is at last year's World Cup when hosts England were paired with Australia and Wales - and crashed out in the group stage.
Making things so, so crucial this Saturday is the fact it will be the Boks' final Test before that all-important draw, while the Six Nations countries will all have five more Tests in early 2017.
A defeat to the Welsh on Saturday at the Principality Stadium, coupled with successful Six Nations campaigns for Scotland and France could see the Boks slip as low as eighth come the World Cup draw.
That potentially represents a disastrous tournament scenario for the Springboks in Japan in 2019, even though Allister Coetzee is unlikely to be the man leading the team to the Land of the Rising Sun.