The Springboks are edging closer to the 2019 Rugby World Cup and look like a side that will be out in the group stages and it’s because we haven’t integrated our squad into the Test 23.
The Springboks are in a shambles. Four wins over an average French side have made it look like there’s been progress this season, but there hasn’t. We’ve got one win in the last six Tests.
Fighting for his job daily, coach Allister Coetzee is over-reliant on a core of players made up of players with limited experience.
While Francois Venter brought a new dynamic in the midfield and Vermeulen’s impact was evident, their introduction against France last week highlights how Coetzee has been going round in circles. There’s no depth because of questionable selections and a lack of trust in fringe players.
Coetzee is even reluctant to play his own bench, unheard of in the modern game. Continuity is good but only if it’s in maintaining a winning team. Coetzee has been quite vocal about continuity in his bid to create a spine and combinations but the Boks have neither.
Malcolm Marx has confirmed himself as the first-choice hooker, but an injury means that Bongi Mbonambi – who has only featured off the bench in 12 Tests since June last year – now has a chance to prove his worth as a starter. Who are the replacements should Jesse Kriel, Ross Cronje, Courtnall Skosan or Andries Coetzee suffer an injury?
Coetzee’s reluctance to use his replacements has been written about – Mbonambi, Rudy Paige, Uzair Cassiem, Dan du Preez, Lukhanyo Am, Warrick Gelant and Louis Schreuder all need a chance.
England coach Eddie Jones calls them “finishers”; replacements come on to finish the match whether to seal a win or chase a deficit, it’s an opportunity to push the incumbents. England replacement scrumhalf Danny Care recently said, “As a finisher on the bench, it’s about increasing the tempo and the energy of the team.”
Replacements are selected to specifically impact the match. Aside from Steven Kitshoff’s impact off the wood, South Africa doesn’t seem to get the same out of a bench that hasn’t been shown much trust.
Wales lost to Australia two weeks ago and made several changes. They blooded a few youngsters in a narrow victory against minnows Georgia, as did Scotland three weeks ago.
Injuries can be a blessing as well as a curse, ask Wilco Louw. His window opened after an injury to Coenie Oosthuizen. But surely Coetzee shouldn’t wait for injuries to force him to test new combinations?
Instead of preparing for the future by rotating players, building experience and depth for the day when the replacement has to start a major Test, it seems the Boks are living in the now.
My point will hopefully be underlined by Mbonambi impressing in his first Test start, and Gelant coming on to tear the match open in the final quarter.
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