The return of scrumhalf Ross Cronje and the elevation of lock Pieter-Steph du Toit will go a long way to strengthen the Bok team
Consistency in team selection has been at the heart of the Springboks’ resurgence this year and the return of scrumhalf Ross Cronjé and the elevation of lock Pieter-Steph du Toit will go a long way to strengthening the Bok team ahead of their Rugby Championship clash against Australia in Perth tomorrow.
Cronjé returns from injury to replace Francois Hougaard, who drops to the bench, while Franco Mostert has been rested making way for Du Toit set to rekindle his second row partnership with Stormers teammate and captain Eben Etzebeth.
Cronjé’s presence will certainly assist with the flow of proceedings as his halfback marriage with flyhalf Elton Jantjies has not only been beneficial to the Lions during Super Rugby but has filtered through to the national team as was evident in the growth and sublime game management abilities of Jantjies.
What Cronjé will need to do quickly is get an understanding with No 8 Uzair Cassiem after only playing one Test together in Port Elizabeth against Argentina as the cohesion that Cronjé has established with the pack this year has been pivotal to the fast paced game the Boks have employed.
The return of Du Toit, though, will only strengthen the pack as the robust but agile second rower has produced some sterling performances off the bench this season and his long standing understanding with Etzebeth will bring about a sense of calm at line-out time against a formidable Wallabies line-out which has stood head and shoulders above most teams this year.
The two changes to the team will bring little or no disruption to the Springboks and will be a timely boost in the team’s growing confidence which has been given further impetus by their five match winning streak this season.
“Franco has played an enormous amount of rugby if you add in his Super Rugby appearances and also his club rugby in Japan and he has started all five Test matches so far,” said Allister Coetzee from Perth yesterday.
“We have to be sensible in managing the workload of certain players, such as Franco. We are fortunate to have a number of good locks. Pieter-Steph now gets another chance to start, and we all know what he is capable of.”
However, Coetzee’s selection of the injury prone flyhalf Handré Pollard on the bench would have raised a lot of eyebrows with Pollard last having played a competitive match four months ago after suffering an ankle injury in Super Rugby. Pollard has replaced Junior Bok Curwin Bosch, with Coetzee opting on the experience and talent of Pollard who has played and excelled Down Under in recent years.
“I am really satisfied with the way he has trained until now and it is great for the team to have a player of his calibre on the bench,” Coetzee said.
Even with the confidence of an unbeaten season and sitting pretty on top of the Rugby Championship log, the Springboks will be wary of the danger the Wallabies pose after their narrow defeat against the All Blacks in Dunedin and unwanted bit of history of having last won in Australia three years ago and in Perth eight years ago.
“They are a well-coached side, with great deception on attack. Their playmakers and strike runners complement each other very well and we will have to be very sharp on defence,” said Coetzee.