Am, Gelant ... if not now, when?

2017-11-21 08:59
Warrick Gelant (Getty)

Cape Town - Allister Coetzee's suggestion on Monday that Saturday's Test against Italy was not the time for experimentation says so much about how far the Springboks have fallen.

Home or away, the Boks should be walking over Italy. It has always been that way, and it should always be that way. 

Last year, the wheels came off in a big way, and that is likely the cause of Coetzee's near-paranoia for this weekend.

The Boks were stunned in Florence as the poorest of performances saw them fall to a 20-18 loss. It was one of Italian rugby's finest moments and possibly South Africa's darkest. 

From that perspective, it is understandable that Coetzee is approaching this weekend with caution. 

If he was to lose back-to-back Tests against Italy, he would hands down go down as the worst Springbok coach ever. 

That title hasn't necessarily escaped him just yet, but with Tests against Italy and Wales to come, Coetzee does have an opportunity to at least finish the year with three wins from three. 

While even that might not be enough to save his job, it will ensure that he can leave with his head held high. 

So yes, winning the next two Tests is massive for Coetzee and the Springboks, but how little faith does he have in his fringe players if he cannot back them to get the job done against Italy? 

There are players on this tour who have been mere spectators - even those selected in match-day squads.

Ireland, a week after smashing the Springboks in Dublin, selected a second-string team for this past weekend's clash against Fiji. They won the match 23-20 and were far from convincing, but the benefits of giving their fringe players some Test match experience surely justified that decision. 

Wales, meanwhile, made 14 changes for their clash against Georgia from the side that went down to Australia a week before.

They also struggled, securing a largely uninspiring 13-6 win, but they at least had the courage to prioritise progress over immediate success. 

This really should be the one match on the tour where Coetzee can give the likes of Lukhanyo Am, Warrick Gelant, Bongi Mbonambi, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Rudy Paige, Oupa Mohoje, Trevor Nyakane, Curwin Bosch and Dan du Preez a run.

The fact that he could not come out on Monday and back his young players for the weekend is indicative of just how much pressure Coetzee is under. 

Bok supporters are crying out for a chance to see Am and Gelant in action, and it is not an emotional request. 

It stems from problems in the Springbok midfield where Jesse Kriel has been pedestrian while, at fullback, Andries Coetzee has done little to suggest that he is the man to take this side to 2019. 

In Am and Gelant, there are two talented alternatives and a Test against Italy seems the perfect platform to see what they are made of. 

If Coetzee was desperate for a win and his starting line-up was beginning to fire, then you might understand his reluctance to change things. 

But, for the past two weekends, the Springbok first team has been poor. 

Change at this stage might actually improve things. 

Coetzee will announce his side for Saturday's clash at 16:00 on Thursday, and if the likes of Am and Gelant are not included now, then when exactly will the right time be? 

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