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Bok loosie cupboard looking bare

Selecting a potent loose trio can be a fine balancing act, which is why we had some big calls to make when we sifted through the candidates from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

It is often said that South Africa has an embarrassment of riches in this department, but a combination of injuries and poor form from key players this season has cut Bok coach Heyeneke Meyer’s options down significantly.

There is an impressive crop of youngsters who have come through to plug the gaps this season, but CJ Stander, Siya Kolisi and Marcell Coetzee have not yet completed their debut season of Super Rugby, so asking them to make the step up to start at Test level at a week’s notice would not be in anyone’s best interests.

At openside flank there are not many rivals for incumbent Heinrich Brussow, and although he has not been in the kind of form that saw him burst into the Bok frame in 2009, players such as Deon Stegmann, Derrick Minnie and Jacques Botes have not done enough to unseat him.

The real conondrum comes on the other side of the scrum as none of the available candidates have made a made a particularly strong case for selection.

With quality players such as Schalk Burger, Jacques Potgieter, Duane Vermeulen and Juan Smith all currently sidelined through injury South Africa’s reputation as a factory of blindside flanks is set to be seriously tested against England.

Willem Alberts’ poor form has seen him lose his starting place at the Sharks to Coetzee, whilst Ashley Johnson has also been used as an impact player for the Cheetahs so it is hard to justify handing the No.7 jersey to either of them.

The lack of experienced flanks in South Africa ready for the cauldron of Test rugby may see Meyer consider some overseas-based talent, most notably in the form of Francois Louw and Danie Rossouw who are both proven performers and were at the World Cup last year.

The No.8 position seems to be a shoot-out between three Super Rugby captains, with Keegan Daniel and Joshua Strauss the only players around who could challenge Pierre Spies for his position.

Strauss may be playing for a struggling team, but that has not stopped him from turning in some stirring performances and he has the physicality to thrive in the Test arena.

Daniel is capable of breaking a game open with a moment of brilliance, but often gives the opposition as many opportunities and needs to play a more controlled style in order to make the step up.

Selecting a Springbok loose trio is tricky at the best of times, and with so many complicating factors at play it is especially tough to anticipate what Meyer’s move will be.

Given the timing of the series and the threats that England are likely to pose it is tough to see the Springbok boss placing his faith in a rookie, which makes the prospect of an experienced hand from overseas getting the nod all the more likely.

Springbok loose trio:

Starting:

6 Heinrich Brussow:
His experience and commitment mean he will not let the side down while the lack of a realistic alternative gives him the right to prove he can still make a big impact at the highest level.

7 Joshua Strauss:
He has shown in the past that he is equally as comfortable on the flank and his ability to cross the gainline makes him a devastating ball-carrier who deserves to show what he is capable of at Test level.

8 Pierre Spies:
He might not be firing on all cylinders and making the kind of impact that he is capable of at the moment, but his experience and the lack of alternatives through injury gives him a lifeline to prove his doubters wrong.

Bench:

19 Willem Alberts:
His physicality and abrasive style make him a formidable impact player who is capable of bullying the opposition when unleashed late in the game, and although he has not found his best form this year he is still capable of doing plenty of damage in short bursts.

By Michael de Vries

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