Changes the Boks MUST make
OPINION: Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber is unlikely to throw the baby out with the bath water.
However, changes are obligatory if South Africa wants to avoid another cliffhanger like past weekend’s 32-29 nailbiting win over Wales.
Nienaber has been telling anyone who would listen that he has a master plan with his selections for the three-Test series against Wales.
That blueprint appeared to have bombed in the opening encounter at Loftus Versfeld.
That is because key pieces of the puzzle just did not fit.
At least Nienaber provided a rider: ‘Things can change.’
It did just that in Pretoria.
Some players were so woeful they may not merit another chance in the second Test in Bloemfontein this coming Saturday.
The most significant changes must be because of the failures of key game drivers – scrumhalf and flyhalf.
Elton Jantjies was a train wreck and despite Nienaber’s best efforts to buffer him from justified critique, an objective examination will suggest his poor form has to do with a lot more than just a lack of game time.
Scrumhalf Francois de Klerk is another key player whose game is in dire need of rejuvenescence.
Time on the sideline could do both a world of good.
The availability of Handre Pollard will solve the issue at No.10, while Herschel Jantjies is unlikely to be any worse than De Klerk was – with Grant Williams a decent option for the bench.
The rest of the starting backline at Loftus – Damian Willemse, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende and Makazole Mapimpi did not disgrace themselves.
Keeping them will ensure some continuity and stability.
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The second half in Pretoria also showed that one or two changes could rejuvenate the forward pack.
Franco Mostert seems to play his best games off the bench, with his high workrate making him the ideal impact player – as a utility that covers blindside flank and lock.
Jasper Wiese, the standout forward in the first Test, certainly deserves another start.
Pieter-Steph du Toit would by now have had enough training time with the team – and is certainly familiar with the well-documented structures – to ensure he can’t be worse as a starter.
Captain Siyamthanda Kolisi certainly needs to zip up and enkindle his game and seems to be one of those players that benefit from additional game time.
Locks Lodewyk de Jager and Eben Etzebeth were not bad. They may well benefit from another run, now that they know what to expect from the fired-up Welsh.
Frans Malherbe, Mbongeni Mbonambi and Retshegofaditswe Nché were also below their usual standards.
While a rotation in the front row won’t do much harm, perhaps the ‘stability in selection’ will come from giving last week’s starters another chance to show the Loftus flop was a once-off.
A few changes to the starting XV will have a ripple effect on the replacement bench.
Salmaan Moerat’s 10-minute cameo on debut was not enough to judge him. However, Mostert is a proven factor off the bench.
Elrigh Louw did not disgrace himself and Albertus Smith was one of the members of the Bomb Squad that exploded onto the scene at Loftus.
Marcell Coetzee, Evan Roos, Rynhardt Elstadt and Deon Fourie give Nienaber plenty of alternative options.
However, perhaps it is best to win the series first, seal the deal in Bloem, and then give fringe players like Roos and Fourie a run on their home turf in the third Test in Cape Town.
Being a coach is never easy.
You have to deal with the opinions and articulations of the media, not to mention the maudlin and incandescent blabbering of fans.
For the record, below is the matchday squad I feel could seal the deal in Bloem!
South Africa: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Cheslin Kolbe, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard , 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Retshegofaditswe Nché.
Replacements: 16 Malcolm Marx, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Albertus Smith, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Willie le Roux.
* Picture credit: Johan Orton