Boks boosted by step into unknown

2016-11-25 12:18
Allister Coetzee (Getty)

Cape Town - At least, this time, we don't know what to expect. 

That is the glaring ray of light accompanying the Springboks as they go into Saturday's clash against Wales in Cardiff. 

The Boks will take to the turf at the Principality Stadium with a fresh looking side that, personnel-wise, has looked to distance itself as much as possible from the disaster in Florence a week ago. 

Hopefully, they will shine like a rainbow after the most violent of thunderstorms. 

The Boks are fielding a backline that has a combined 40 caps, making them the least experienced backline since 1994, but that fact doesn't seem daunting at all given the circumstances.

The Boks, all of them, have been battered this year to the point where they are barely recognisable. 

As a result, there is very little faith in any of the players who have consistently featured throughout the troubled Allister Coetzee era. 

New blood provides new possibilities, and anything 'new' right now is welcomed when talking about the Springboks

Coetzee, believed to be on the verge of getting the sack, has rolled the dice one last time and there are four uncapped players, and numerous new combinations, in his match-day 23 for the weekend. 

The most exciting selection is that of Rohan Janse van Rensburg at No 12 in place of Damian de Allende. 

It is a call-up that sits well with the greater South African rugby public, who have wanted to the 22-year-old on the highest stage for much of the year. 

He has his chance this weekend, and his inclusion gives the Boks a different feel entirely in a channel from which they have launched most of their backline attacks this season.

Janse van Rensburg's combination with Elton Jantjies at flyhalf was fantastic to watch in Super Rugby this year, and seeing how that partnership develops on the international stage makes this weekend intriguing. 

There is absolutely no pressure on the Boks this weekend. If they lose, it won't even be close to the worst thing that's happened to them this year. Because of that, they should have a go in an absolutely fearless manner.

With a backline of Faf de Klerk, Jantjies, Janse van Rensburg, Francois Venter, Ruan Combrinck, Jamba Ulengo and Johan Goosen, they seemingly have the right players to do that. 

Ulengo is one of the other newcomers, though he will surely not see as much of the ball as Janse van Rensburg does. 

There is also uncertainty in the forwards. 

The tight five has a familiar feel to it - Tendai Mtawarira, Adriaan Strauss, Lourens Adriaanse, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Lood de Jager - but the loose forward trio is not one that you would have expected to see playing in this Test at the beginning of the year. 

Warren Whiteley continues at No 8, but the flanks are Nizaam Carr and Uzair Cassiem. 

Carr and Cassiem are an unlikely No 6 and 7 combination but, again, one that we haven't seen before. 

They will both want to make big impressions and they will bring energy and intensity. 

That may not seem like a whole lot, but the Bok pack has been lacking in both of those departments all too often this season, and new faces always come with a bit of both.

And that is what this Bok performance should be all about. 

They may not be any closer to identifying a blueprint or a desired style, or a game plan, or their best starting XV, or any long-term path to the 2019 World Cup, but they can go out there on Saturday with a team that hasn't played together before and give it one big, final push. 

And, if they pull it off, then at least there will be some indication that all is not lost, and that the future does offer some glimmer of hope. 

But let's not get carried away. It's better not to expect anything. This year has taught us that, if nothing else. 


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