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
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