It should be 'fringe' Boks taking on Italy

2016-11-18 12:00
Adriaan Strauss (Gallo)

Cape Town - This weekend's clash against Italy should, ideally, have been an opportunity for the Springboks to get a look at some of their fringe players. 

But that hasn't happened for two reasons. 

Firstly, Coetzee is under massive pressure and is desperate for a display of dominance in Florence. 

Secondly, the Bok coach does not know what his best starting XV is. It is hard to identify fringe players when you can't identify your strongest players. 

That Bryan Habana, who returns this weekend, has described this as the biggest match of the Springbok season speaks volumes. 

Let that sink in for a second.

Italy is the biggest match of the season?


The same Italy that is ranked 13th in the world? That statement alone, from a Bok legend and South Africa's all-time leading try scorer, shows just how far things have fallen in 2016. 

The Boks are ill, not in a healthy state at all and Coetzee could very well be on his metaphorical death-bed in terms of his future at the helm of this team. 

There are many calling for his head already, and even wins in the last two matches of the year against Italy and Wales will not be enough to prevent the Boks from having their worst year in a decade. 

10 matches and 8 months into his reign, Coetzee has done little to suggest that there is a plan in place for this team. 

There still appears to be no clear game style, the defence is a shambles and his team selections are puzzling.

The likes of Habana should not be playing this game at all. 

It should be an opportunity for some of the more inexperienced players in the camp to get a taste of Test rugby. 

Adriaan Strauss is another that stands out. 

What can the Boks really gain from fielding the outgoing skipper in this match? 

Strauss has announced that he will be retiring from international rugby at the end of the year. This tour, then, could have been the perfect opportunity for him to offer advice to the other hookers in the squad as they got some much-needed game time. 

Next year, Coetzee will have to place his faith in another No 2. While Bongi Mbonambi looks like he is next in line, he has played so little Test rugby despite being in the national set-up all year. He could have benefited from a run-out against Italy, but that will not happen and it is unlikely to happen against Wales either. 

The same could be said of a guy like Rohan Janse van Rensburg. 

So much is being made of the 22-year-old, and this clash against a relative minnow would have been the ideal place to make his Test debut. 

But Coetzee is understandably eager for Damian de Allende to find his form again, and Italy could be the perfect catalyst. 

All over the pitch there are examples. 

A guy like Franco Mostert could have been given a crack while one of Pieter-Steph du Toit or Lood de Jager made way, while Uzair Cassiem would have fancied his chances too. 

Do we really need to be fielding the muscle of a man like Willem Alberts, who has played so much rugby this year, against the 13th best team in the world? 

Warren Whiteley is another who has been run ragged. He could do with a rest. 

Instead, Coetzee's selections for this match reveal just how desperate he is. 

Last weekend, and All Black 'B' team scored 10 tries against Italy. But, by now, we know that it doesn't make much sense to compare the Boks to the All Blacks. 

On Saturday, we will instead compare the full-strength Boks to the Italians. Hopefully, the difference in quality is there for all to see. Because if this one ends up being tight, Coetzee will have no excuses to hide behind. 

Read more on:    springboks  |  allister coetzee  |  rugby


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