Springboks at a crossroads
OPINION: @rugby365com contributor Angus Opperman takes a look at a few concerns South Africa is facing.
A second successive loss to the Wallabies in Brisbane saw the Springboks finding themselves almost certainly out of contention to retain The Rugby Championship title and also losing their number 1 world ranking to New Zealand after their win over Argentina.
It’s not time to push the panic button as of yet but there are harsh questions that need to be answered.
The Springbok game plan when executed to perfection, is foolproof.
The problem, however, does come when they are physically matched and just one or two percent off their game.
In the Rugby Championship Round three Test against the Wallabies, one could say Handré Pollard left many points out there that could’ve swung the result.
In Round Four, however, it seemed as if the Springboks were simply outsmarted by a more creative and innovative Wallabies side – while the World Champions themselves seemed very one dimensional when plan “A” didn’t work as well as they would’ve hoped.
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There are certain positions that needs more competition.
In rugby, teams ideally would want three players they can call on any time without compromise or doubt and be sure they’ll be there for the distant future.
At this point in time it’s worth noting that Duane Vermeulen is heading towards his heyday and although Jasper Wiese did incredibly well since his debut, there is another backup number 8 needed should he and Vermeulen not be available for whatever reason.
Albertus Smith can slot in the No.8 jersey for a short term but he isn’t the typical mould of a Springbok number 8.
It might be worth looking at drafting Marcell Coetzee back into the squad and getting Evan Roos involved in the national set-up on the end of year tour. There are also great prospects in Phepsi Buthelezi and Elrich Louw.
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The question around flyhalf is a massive concern.
Morné Steyn won’t be around forever, and the same for Elton Jantjies. There’s a lot of pressure on Handré Pollard at the moment and rightly so. The Springboks do need someone who is physical enough at 10 and have a kicking success rate over 80 percent.
The name Johan Goosen comes to mind immediately who has been sensational for the Bulls.
The management of Damian Willemse is also something that should be addressed.
Where exactly does he fit in?
He isn’t a renowned goal kicker so if the starting 10 has a bad day who will come to the rescue?
Faf de Klerk has been slotting points for Sale Sharks so maybe that’s another trick the Boks might be missing as well.
The No.15 jersey
Fullback is another position of concern. Willie le Roux too won’t always be there and can get injured at any stage.
Fassi has been slowly blooded in on the wing and Willemse has been the backup. Cheslin Kolbe could also stand in with Nkosi and Mapimpi as his wings and Warrick Gelant is still there as well to be called up after recovering from a serious leg injury.
It might also not be the worst idea to bring Curwin Bosch into the mix as a fullback. He does fit in well at the Sharks in that position and he is deadly accurate with the boot. With only two test caps to his name, it wouldn’t do harm to use the end of year tour to experiment and blood some new players for the future next to a vastly experienced existing core group.