The Springbok team selected to face France at Loftus Versfeld raised more than a few eyebrows. Tank Lanning and Zelím Nel have a go at picking a better side from the same squad of players.
TankBoks: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jan Serfontein, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Coenie Oosthuizen is not an international tighthead, Jesse Kriel is a fullback, Elton Jantjies is a proven failure at Test level, Siya Kolisi is not a an open-sider, Oupa Mohoje has been terrible for the Cheetahs this year, Frans Malherbe can’t get a regular start for the Stormers, and Raymond Rhule tops the missed tackles list in Super Rugby.
So, that’s where I started…
Given the squad that has been selected, coach Allister Coetzee’s hands were actually quite severely tied. Frans Steyn is the only alternative flyhalf, but if you play him at 10, then Kriel has to play 13.
The joke of it is that I would have all of Thomas du Toit, Wilco Louw, Chris Cloete, Lionel Cronje, Francois Venter, Harold Vorster and Ruan Combrinck in my Bok 23 this weekend, but they are fighting over beds in the SA A dormitory!
I really am not convinced about Jantjies as an international flyhalf, but perhaps he will fare better as part of the Lions 8-9-10 combination this weekend. That will require Coetzee to change his game plan, though.
Steyn at 10 with Kriel outside Serfontein at 13 to implement a proper kicking game would probably be a better option, but that side would have even worse transformation numbers than this one.
It’s a brutal balancing act.
ZelBoks: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Raymond Rhule, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Frans Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 7 Franco Mostert, 6 Jean-Luc du Preez 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (c), 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Beast Mtawarira
Picking a team from the weakeset Bok squad I’ve seen is fraught with perils – you might want to buckle up for this one!
The squad is low on experience and proven expertise in key positions. Lock isn’t on that list because SA spits out world-class locks like watermelon pips.
Yes, tactical issues come up when you play with the balance of a pack, but this Bok squad is fresh out of options. I’ve loaded the front eight with four locks.
Etzebeth, Du Toit and even De Jager have World XV capacity and I’ve deployed Du Toit with Mostert in the back row to take advantage of these riches.
Sharks thumper Du Preez packs down at openside. Clearly not a fetcher, Du Preez does have the size and temperament to repel threats at short-radius rucks where we’ll tackle-and-tank to disrupt the French.
Excluding the front row, my pack averages 2m-114kgs per player (up from 1.95m-106kgs).
That means we won’t be playing high-tempo, coast-to-coast rugby. Instead, we’ll slow the game right down and play from set-piece to set-piece, kicking the ball into the stands and contesting every feasible lineout and restart for turnovers.
At the back, Hougaard starts at No 9 where his physicality (in a tighter role on defence) helps to cover a plodding pack.
While Frans Steyn is temperamental, he’s not short on confidence, experience or tactical expertise. The Boks should have little difficulty exiting with his big boot deployed at 10.
Whenever possible, Kriel and Serfontein swap on defence to allow the latter to man the 13 channel.
Leyds is light in weight and experience, but he’s a talented footballer with serious clutch factor who sees the depth of the field – I’m trusting him to float a green back three.