Rob Houwing

All change at wing for Boks

2014-11-24 08:27
port24 chief writer Rob Houwing (File)
Cape Town – The Springboks’ necessary rejig for their final Test of the year against Wales in Cardiff next Saturday will be most apparent in both wing positions.

They are forced to go without Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen, who return to club obligations in France and Japan respectively as the game falls outside the IRB’s designated Test window period.

That is a surrender of a massive 165 caps between them and arguably also the two Bok first-choice players – not to mention World Cup winners in 2007 -- in the wide berths.

Both were at their posts in the rather laboured 22-6 disposal of Italy in Padova on Saturday and Habana, 31, could do with a break anyway – he has begun to look unusually flat at this advanced stage of the calendar year although he did streak away for the last of three South African tries against the Italians.

Replacing Pietersen may be more of a straightforward issue for coach Heyneke Meyer, assuming he is still well disposed toward Cornal Hendricks, who has earned all of his 10 caps this season and registered five tries even if he goes a tad anonymous at some stages of matches. He seems the logical, return fit at No 14.

It is on the left, however, that there may be more head-scratching to do: Habana has played every Test since the start of the 2014 Castle Rugby Championship, so there’s been little or no exposure for anyone else in the slot in that time.

There are attractive enough options; it is just a question of pinpointing exactly who is best suited to deputising.

Still in the broader squad, despite the shedding of various overseas-based players for the Cardiff clash, are such candidates as specialists Lwazi Mvovo and the uncapped Seabelo Senatla, plus the utility possibilities offered by men like Damian de Allende, Francois Hougaard and Willie le Roux. The last-named player, who came off the bench to spark the Boks into belated attacking life against Italy, will probably come back into his now customary fullback berth after the worthwhile little experiment with Johan Goosen at No 15 in Padova.

But he could also comfortably operate in one of the wing positions if Meyer decides, for instance, to give Pat Lambie a run in the last line of defence this time and recall young Handre Pollard to flyhalf.

There will be far less disruption to most other Bok positions for the challenge of the Welsh – hugely competitive for some 70 minutes against the All Blacks on Saturday until the dam wall burst – and even a few pleasant predicaments despite the iffy collective showing in Italy.

Trevor Nyakane, for instance, very capably stood in for the rotated Tendai Mtawarira at loosehead prop as scrum time, whilst Nizaam Carr’s lovely little debut cameo could mean he forces himself into the starting XV – probably at the expense of Oupa Mohoje (unremarkable in his latest outing) even if blindside flank is not the WP player’s most ideal position.

But several permutations would be possible if Meyer decided to put out a trio comprising Duane Vermeulen, Marcell Coetzee and Carr, as all can be flexible within a loosie alliance.

There had been no further word at the time of writing about the recuperation of veteran tighthead Jannie du Plessis from his hamstring injury, but if he passes the necessary medical tests he will presumably get the No 3 jersey back at the Millennium Stadium.

Should he still be laid low, however, Coenie Oosthuizen’s spirited display on Saturday – he had one or two bad scrums but several good ‘uns, too – will have been enough not to fret too much about the position for Wales.

The one thing the massive physical unit reminded in Padova was his near-unstoppable ability as a ball-carrier with a touch of momentum near the opposition try-line.

Meyer names his side for the Wales Test on Wednesday.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  jp pietersen  |  bryan habana  |  rugby


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