Boks: Gelant must now start … somewhere!

2017-11-26 15:30
Warrick Gelant (Gallo Images)

Cape Town - Just a pinch of pizzazz … that’s what debutant Warrick Gelant introduced to the otherwise crudely industrial Springboks in his fewer than 20 minutes off the “splinters” in bleak Padova on Saturday.

READ: Thomas du Toit to join the Boks in Wales

In its measured way, it was also manna from heaven, even as the Bulls fullback was asked to operate in the slightly less familiar role of wing, replacing the yet again floundering Courtnall Skosan - call him a baffling teacher’s pet to Allister Coetzee? - against Italy.

Immediately you just got the sense of a welcome urgency and gusto, and Gelant very nearly scored a fairy-tale first Test try in two chances in rapid succession to chase deft grubbers behind the home side’s defence - one was an especially agonising near-miss as the dead-ball line on the cramped field just “won”.

Despite the comfortable, pack-driven 35-6 victory in a grim affair considerably influenced by the unappealing weather, the starting Bok back three only continued to look, frankly, like the lamest collectively-speaking in green and gold for many years.

Gelant could have been introduced a whole lot earlier, really, and you would have heard very few howls of protest from South African living rooms had it been at the expense of any of Skosan, co-wing Dillyn Leyds or fullback Andries Coetzee.

Don’t mark it down as a fait accompli - the coach has a peculiarly unbudgeable liking for the incumbents in jerseys 11, 14 and 15 - but if any sanity is to prevail, then 22-year-old offensive prospect Gelant, with his ability to depart from the mundane and predictable, will start in the tour finale against Wales in Cardiff this Saturday.

In his specialist position? Well, that would be even better, but if he causes any kind of shakeup at all in that maddeningly innocuous trio of positions, call me an instant disciple of the move.

Outside centre has been another enduring hot topic for rethink in recent times, but with Jesse Kriel cranking his all-round game up a notch in Padova, he may earn ongoing selection at the Millennium Stadium and the best Lukhanyo Am might then hope for is a maiden crack off the bench if he’s considered the correct fit there.

The Boks could also do a lot worse than reverse the roles of scrumhalves Ross Cronje and Rudy Paige; the latter still doesn’t wholly convince, himself, but put it this way: his 25 minutes as a sub against Italy were better than Cronje’s earlier 55.

About 80 percent of the reason the tourists prevailed by a wide margin against the Italians - they look dead-certs for the Six Nations wooden spoon again early next year - was down to the mastery of their forwards.

The Boks are building very decent depth again there in most spots, quite contrary to the situation behind the scrum, and the fact that certain enforced changes will have to be made for Saturday in the engine room should not stymie them too much.

For starters, it is a shame considering present, quality service at eighth-man and open-side flanker respectively that Duane Vermeulen (Toulon) and Francois Louw (Bath) return to club commitments for this out-of-window international.

But the convenient return from paternal matters back home of Siya Kolisi plugs the No 6 hole fairly obviously and assuredly, whilst at eight an ideal chance now presents itself to gauge the credentials of robust Sharks figure Dan du Preez in a first start.

At worst, he has the physical credentials to almost emulate those of Vermeulen, especially if the Boks continue to place a heavy emphasis - bet your last dollar they will! - on grunt at the expense of gracefulness against the Welsh.

Although Bongi Mbonambi made a compelling maiden start of his own at hooker against Italy, the likely return to fitness of still clear-cut first-choice Malcolm Marx should also mean a fairly seamless switch in that berth.

I would certainly advocate a more prodigious bag-shake in the back division, but knowing that “Toetie” is likely to favour his debatable brand of continuity simply because SA have won again, this could be the Bok starting XV in Cardiff:

15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Warrick Gelant, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff (or Tendai Mtawarira, if fit).

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  warrick gelant  |  rugby

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