Coetzee to complete Bok puzzle?

Daryn Katz

The Springboks will play five Tests before opening their 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign against New Zealand, and Rassie Erasmus is on record stating that his 31-man RWC squad is 80 percent settled.

The Bok coach will field his strongest available line-ups for the Rugby Championship clashes against Australia and New Zealand in July.  It’s conceivable he’ll do the same when the Springboks take on Japan on 6 September in preparation for the looming All Blacks encounter at the International Stadium Yokohama.

That leaves two matches against Argentina in August as opportunities for exploring options to decide on the remaining 20 percent.

Even the best-laid World Cup plans can be sundered by injuries, loss of form or an unwarranted red card. So it’s vital Erasmus uses the time he has left to plug holes with more than just stop-gap measures. With that in mind, here’s a list of players yet to be utilised by Erasmus who could complete the puzzle making for a battle-hardened squad:

Malcolm Marx and Bongi Mbonambi are the top two. Erasmus is fond of Schalk Brits’ experience and gees. But Brits hasn’t had much game time and his 37-year-old body will need to keep on trucking.  His recent scuffle with Akker van Der Merwe and their subsequent bans also couldn’t have done either player any favours in their quest to impress selectors.

I’ve written about my enthusiasm for Ashley Johnson to get a crack. But he would have needed to be drafted in sooner to show what he can do and be allowed to settle.

It’s true that experience wins World Cups and the importance of sound technical rake play means veteran Bismarck du Plessis must be seen as a strong choice to join his brother-in-arms Tendai Mtawarira for a swansong.

Loose Forward:
Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Duane Vermeulen are the first-choice loose trio. Erasmus has also employed Francois Louw, Warren Whiteley and Sikhumbuzo Notshe. But, despite Whiteley’s leadership credentials and Notshe’s verve, only Flo boasts genuine and crucial utility value.

Under Erasmus at Test level, Flo has offered dogged grit but then he’s also looked a bit off the pace at times. The fit-again Marcell Coetzee and Jaco Kriel must be given their chance to secure a spot. Both are capable of explosive performances across the back row.

Faf de Klerk is in the pilot seat. Embrose Papier is growing as his deputy. But Louis Schreuder, Ross Cronje and Ivan van Zyl haven’t really shot the lights out.

Francois Hougaard has the experience and versatility. Yet the scintillating form of Cobus Reinach in the English Premiership is tough to ignore.

Jesse Kriel and Lukhanyo Am are firing on all cylinders. Damian de Allende is difficult to contain when in form. Lionel Mapoe is at his instinctive best when playing with Elton Jantjies, but he and Andre Esterhuizen have yet to do enough at Test level to convince.

Jan Serfontein has impressed when playing for the Boks. Savvy Erasmus would do well to link up the 35-capped Springbok inside centre with his former Bulls 10 and 13.

Utility Back:
Patrick Lambie’s forced retirement may have scuppered some plans. Curwin Bosch and Damian Willemse have shown promise. But both are being employed mostly at 15 by their franchises and Erasmus has pointed out that no flyhalf under the age of 24 has won a World Cup. 

Erasmus needs an experienced game manager and a calming influence to step in if anything were to happen to Handre Pollard or Jantjies, or indeed to Willie Le Roux at fullback, given the relative inexperience of the Springbok’s first choice wings.

Johan Goosen or Frans Steyn can provide stability across the backline. Steyn is a World Cup winner, has over 50 Bok caps and is the more imposing presence.

Erasmus also has to consider meeting the 50 percent transformation target. Will there be significant selections in this regard for the second Test against Argentina in Pretoria on 17 August?

It will be interesting to see how the Springbok brains-trust balances all these factors as the Rugby World Cup draws near.

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Follow Daryn on Twitter: @KatzDaryn

- Daryn Katz

Let's chat

  • Barry

    Erasmus’s coat is pretty much cut, because quite simply there is not enough time left to bed down as many as 6 or 7 outsiders. The opportunity to expand the net a bit was during the 2018 EOYT, an opportunity that is now lost!

    Listing a whole bunch of one’s favorite players serves little purpose. All too often players are recommended based on form from two and three seasons back. Of this extensive list, I would consider Coetzee and Reinach, but reality is that only Reinach has a realistic chance!

    There are just too many good loose forwards in SA at the moment, that I think it unlikely that there will be anyone other than perhaps Louw considered. Something that may have escaped many, was last weeks Springbok resting of Jacques Vermeulen, clearly now in Erasmus’s sites. Van Staden is back at the Bulls, and on current stats Dan Du Preez is the current form No 8!

    • Tobokani

      You obviously haven’t watched Marcell Coetzee this season then I’m assuming. Hez been outstanding for Ulster. Do yourself a favour and start watching Northern hemisphere rugby on the weekends. I think you’ll find it’s actually a much better product that Super rugby involving South African and Australian teams.. All the money they have spent recruiting some of the southern hemisphere’s best players is starting to be reflected in the quality of play.

      • Barry

        I am a great fan of Coetzee, he would be a huge asset to SA.

        As I have said lower down in this article, my views are what I think Erasmus will do, not what I’d like him to do!

        We’re on the same page just coming from different directions.

        There’s a lot at stake, so I suspect Erasmus will stick as far as possible with players he’s tested!

        • Dean Bright

          Actually Barry is spot on. There’s like 3 or 4 Test matches to go before the guys board that plane. It’s not enough time to bleed new combinations properly. If truth be told the only way those guys will make it into the squad is if there are injuries, and I’m sure there will be. We’ve already seen Lood go down, which opens the door for Orie. I doubt there will be too many surprises in the squad this year. It’s all but picked.

          What’s your thoughts on standouts from Super Rugby this year that might make it? After Rassie dangled that carrot and said players not currently involved will have to hammer down the door.
          IMO Lizo Qcoboka has been a standout for the Bulls. He and Nyakane have combined excellently for the Bulls. I hear Daniel du Preez. He’s got a chance if some of the bruising loose forwards get injured. I’d say Mapimpi is fighting very hard for a place too. Can’t think of many others who have been consistent week in week out.

          • DK

            Agreed, Mapimpi and Gqoboka are standouts. Carlu Sadie also catching the eye.

    • SweetAz

      Dan Du Preez is unfortunately not rocket scientist or brain donor material. Super Rugby is about his level, -at a stretch.

      • Barry

        Rather go and argue with the mirror Sweet. I enjoy rugby discussion but I’m not into mindless drivel!

        My post was to the effect that Dan Du Preez currently has the best SR stats at No 8. That is a fact and it remains so! I really don’t care whether you like it or not!

        • SweetAz

          Yeah, you just gotta love how those stats beat the Reds,- glad to see those “intelligent” hyper-educated Sharks still know how to play rugby.


      • Barry

        Change feet Sweet, he has a degree from Westville, so probably smarter than you! His stats are currently way better than Vermeulen’s who by the bye has no tertiary education! It would be more honest to just say “I don’t like him because he plays for the Sharks”.

        Have a good Easter!

        • SweetAz

          It’s not about me mate, you may be surprised at the degrees I have. The fact is he is not an “intelligent” rugby player is what I was alluding to, you do not see him do the kind of things a Kieran Read does like knowing when to lurk in the tramlines, disrupting opponents lineout or winning kick-offs with his aerial skills.
          Just by the by, I deal with a few employers and the consensus is South African degrees of the last 10 years are not worth the paper they are printed on.

          That’s what happens when you only need 30% to pass.

          • SweetAz

            Stats don’t win matches, as Naas used to say, “Just look at the scoreboard Darryn”. You were the one who brought “degrees” into the discussion, -I note you are unable to contradict any of my assertions re comparison to a really intelligent player. Your provincialism is starting to blind you mate, I fear you are becoming the Coastal version of Schrodinger.

          • Barry

            The stats don’t agree with you. You’ll just have to try and come to terms with that!

            The column is about rugby not some unconfirmed view on South African degrees!

  • John Comyn

    There is still a lot of rugby to be played before they select the side. The likelihood that main contenders will fall by the wayside through injury could make a big difference. Also bear in mind there is a 50% quota selection policy in place for the WC. There really is no point in speculating now.

    • Barry

      That’s almost sensible John and no cheap shot at the Sharks today! What’s up, are you off colour or is it some sort of Easter Good will?

  • SweetAz

    The 50% requirement is an aggregate figure over a period of time so perhaps Rassie can give a lot of game-time to quotas during the rugby championship and the Japan game keeping his real diamonds wrapped in cotton wool.

    Running to take cover from the usual suspects now.

    • Barry

      I think you will find that most people are over racial selections quite honestly. Even our National Captain is fed up with it. It is only those with racial baggage that keep plugging away at it

      • SweetAz

        Really? So if everyone is so over it why is even a requirement then? The National captain is a beneficiary of it, he is only there because of it and the fact that he doesn’t realize it is perhaps indicative of his level of denial. Is it not strange that as soon as he left the team in Ozz they suddenly played like a team and got a win?

        • Dean Bright

          He’ll either hit that target or be very close to it. There’s 12 definite players at this stage. There’s also another 5 possibles. Qcoboka deserves a spot after his current run of form. Orie has been industrious for the Lions, if Lood or any lock goes down, he’ll be a shoe-in. That brings it to 14. Gelant or Mapoe wouldn’t be bad picks either. I believe Rassie will pick a strong squad either way. There really aren’t many players lighting up Super Rugby consistently to replace the current players.

  • James

    What are your feelings on a Rohan Janse Van Rensburg starting at 12 this year?

    • Tobokani

      Hasn’t been all that good for Sale this season unfortunately, the same deficiencies that plagued his game this side are still pretty evident. Still quite the basher mind you but his passing game isn’t great, can’t kick and his defence is still a bit iffy. Andre Esterheizen can do what he does and has got a great left boot as a bonus.

    • Barry

      He’s a very good player, but he has been out of the SA fold for a bit and has never really been on Erasmus’s list, whilst we know that Erasmus was in dialogue with Jan Serfontein late last year. I don’t think there will be much change from De Allende and Esterhuizen unless there are injuries, so a very outside chance for Rohan in my view!

      • James

        Yeah but I would take a Rohan Janse Van Rensburg over De Allende and Esterhuizen every single time. I’ve been watching his games with sale sharks, he’s been playing much better than these 2, his tackling has been solid and has also been putting his wingers in space, but I guess De Allende is a stormer so he’ll get the no. 12 Jersey (unfortunately)

        • Herman Schroder?

          Agreed James. DDA easily the most overrated ever to put on a Bok jersey. Painful to watch and a handicap to his side. Keep watching his every move in a game and you’ll see just how much he ducks and dives. But no doubt AC and Rassie’s poster boy is off to Japan. Oh boy. Cheers.

          • SweetAz

            I agree with you on Die Ellendig but he’s part of the 50% that some people seem to think everybody is “over”.

  • Wesley

    Im sure Marcel may be considered, but the bus is pretty full in terms of loosies. I wouldnt consider Flo for a run, seems to blow more cold than hot.

    Kriel could be the answer more than Marcel though imo. Notshe also just passenger in the Stormers camp but perhaps having Whiteley back and injury free will close his window as well. And seeing SR form as a yardstick theres more questions around the backline and especially pivot positions at the moment. Reinach could be the answer to van Zyl, Papier the clear choice as 2nd behind Faf.

    • SweetAz

      Whitely will be “injury free” for 2 games, max. Mark my words. The man is too fragile.

    • Tobokani

      Kriel and Coetzee would be the perfect bench options but probably Coetzee is the better option because he can cover all 3 backrow positions equally well and he does it all the time for Ulster and hez also a good lineout option

    • Barry

      I agree with your views on Flo – he has had some very average outing of recent, BUT he is very experienced and Erasmus will be looking for as much of that as he can get!

      It is what I think he will do rather than what I think he should do!

      • Herman Schroder?

        Barry, experience without a cohesive forward thinking well coached game plan is experience wasted. The Boks at the last WC fielded more than 900 caps in some matches and flopped badly despite the Bronze. I’ve said before that it’s all good and well bringing in a multitude of overseas players at short notice before tests but how does this build a solid team culture based on continuity and players instinctively ‘knowing’ each other when the pressure is on. The AB’s and Ireland don’t do it yet we think we can get away with it ? I don’t think so. Cheers.

        • Barry

          Yes agreed, as I’ve said above, Erasmus’s coat is pretty much already cut. We may be forced to make changes through injury, but otherwise there will, by necessity, be very few tweaks!

          Good luck for tomorrow, interested to see how your new 10 goes. Stormers also with a new 10, just Sharks flogging a very over played horse!

          Happy Easter all!

  • Jaz

    Bismarck is a no brainer. Unfortunately coaches over the years have destroyed Johan Goosen. He is/was probably the most naturally gifted 10 South Africa have produced since readmission, but playing him everywhere except his position have done him no favors. Frans Steyn IMHO should always be there, attitude aside. Jaco Kriel must be the perfect impact player. Etzebeth and Snyman should be starters… Together. Reinach has had the better of Faf in their recent matches and Rohan Janse van Rensburg always makes a massive impact. Incredible hands, good lines, solid defense, hard to bring down and consistent. Full package. What more do they need from him? That huge kid with the blond hair (Jacques something) has also been playing very well for Montpellier. He can also play 7 if needed. I would give my left one for a single 110 kg+ winger (Neil Burger style) to mix things up with on attack.

  • Dean Bright

    You have to pick a player who plays towards the breakdown. We missed a fetcher on the EOYT last year. Coetzee ticks that box. If he is going to pick Vermeulen, PS, Kolisi and Whiteley then surely Coetzee must join them. Flo is a bit long in the tooth. Notshe shouldn’t be in the equation, he can’t even nail a spot down in the Stormers team. Jaco Kriel would be unlucky, he is an absolute handful on attack. However, Coetzee offers utility value and was the best fetcher (statistically) in Super Rugby during his final season for the Sharks. He’s also got a point to prove after missing out on 2015 WC selection, same for Reinach.

    Of the rest of the outsiders, based on form over in the North, I’d pick only Serfontein and Reinach. Frans Steyn is a stretch but I don’t think he quite has the desire to play for the Boks anymore. Neither does Bismarck.

  • Tobokani

    100% you are spot on about everything here. About Coetzee though, he has become a much better breakdown exponent at Ulster than when he was last in super rugby with the sharks

    • Dean Bright

      I can believe, especially with the conditions and style of play up North. It’s trench warfare down there.

  • Johann Botha

    you guys did any of you watch the Lions game over the weekend whats your opinion on Kyle Brink hes back on the scene with a bang that guy is a monster on defence and on attack and with his physic he doesnt stand back for nobody . I think he is a outside contender for a loose forward .

    • Herman Schroder?

      Agreed but Rassie has already confirmed 80% of his squad and with his transformation imperatives will have no place for Brink, more’s the pity. Cheers.

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