Rugby Championship

Massive week for under-fire Boks

2016-09-05 10:30
Allister Coetzee

Cape Town - It is a simply massive week for Springbok rugby. 

Saturday's Rugby Championship clash against the Wallabies in Brisbane represents an opportunity for coach Allister Coetzee to take a giant step towards convincing a skeptical rugby public that the Boks are in safe hands. 

He hasn't managed to do that yet (he hasn't even come close), with losses at home to Ireland and away to Argentina plaguing his first five Tests in charge. 

The Wallabies are in no great shape themselves. 

Having been bashed twice (42-8 and 29-9) by the All Blacks, Australia and coach Michael Cheika are on the ropes.  

Like the Boks, the Wallabies are looking to evolve and play a more attractive brand of rugby but, like the Boks, they seem short on players who can successfully execute such a philosophy. 

They are disjointed at the moment, seemingly miles away from knowing what their best 15 is as the battle to hold onto players and tie them down to Australian Rugby Union (ARU) contracts continues. 

A trip down memory lane to the days of George Gregan and Stephen Larkham must hurt Wallabies fans, but the hard truth is that this group of players bears no resemblance to the one that operated in that era. 

If you include last year's World Cup final, the Wallabies have lost six Test matches in a row - three against the All Blacks and three against England. 

It makes this weekend's clash as significant for them as it is for the Boks. 

The wounded Wallabies should be ripe for the picking in Coetzee's eyes, but a look back at the Springboks is likely to inspire the same optimism in Cheika. 

Simply put, a win for Coetzee will give him the breathing room he needs, while defeat - especially considering next weekend's trip to Christchurch - will further asphyxiate him. 

Coetzee is due to name his match-day squad on Thursday, and there will be unrelenting debate between now and then. 

The first major decision is at flyhalf, where Coetzee is set to make a decision on the availability of Elton Jantjies (thigh injury) on Monday. 

Jantjies, full of talent with ball in hand, has not convinced Coetzee that he is the man to wear the No 10 jersey for the Boks as yet. 

He has been erratic with his kicking and Coetzee has spoken about his desire to see his No 10 control the game through accuracy in that department. 

Morne Steyn looms, with Johan Goosen also an option. 

Another area where Coetzee will have to make a call is at scrumhalf. 

Having drafted Francois Hougaard straight into the squad after a season with the Blitzboks, it seems that Coetzee has big plans for the 28-year-old. 

It could mean more bad news for perennial substitute Rudy Paige, but whether or not Hougaard can challenge the instinctive Faf de Klerk for a starting place remains to be seen. 

Elsewhere, Coetzee will surely include Pieter-Steph du Toit in his starting line-up, probably at the expense of Lood de Jager. 

Damian de Allende and Lionel Mapoe should continue in midfield, with Juan de Jongh keeping up the pressure from outside, while Lwazi Mvovo looks set to replace the injured Ruan Combrinck at wing. 

Jesse Kriel is an option at fullback, but his inclusion could depend largely on what Coetzee opts to do at flyhalf. 

The Boks are rocked - on the field and off it. 

Results aren't going their way, and the news that captain Adriaan Strauss will be retiring at the end of the year has further added to the uncertainty surrounding the future of Springbok rugby at the moment. 

A win in Brisbane may not change a whole lot in terms of South Africa's Rugby Championship chances, but it would be a hugely significant moment in the Coetzee era. 

The heat has been turned up, and it is time to deliver. 


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