Willing workhorse: Francois Venter could start for the Boks at inside centre against France on Saturday. Picture: GALLO IMAGES
Willing workhorse: Francois Venter could start for the Boks at inside centre against France on Saturday. Picture: GALLO IMAGES

Two performance-related changes among the backs‚ and as many enforced ones in the pack, look to be on the cards when Allister Coetzee names on Thursday his Springbok team to play France on Saturday.

The coach is in search of a combination that can eke out a win over a team the Springboks handsomely outplayed in June.

Many were hoping that the 3-0 series whitewash would be the platform from which the Springboks could launch an emphatic response to the poor season they had in 2016.

It proved a false dawn‚ however‚ as they barely improved on the heights of June‚ while occasionally plummeting to extreme depths‚ most notably away against the All Blacks and last week against Ireland in Dublin.

Coetzee wants a reaction from his squad and is going to have to make calls that may prove potentially sensitive but indubitably necessary.

Handré Pollard’s expected return to the No10 jersey in the place of Elton Jantjies may not be universally popular but the coach‚ especially after the Dublin debacle‚ needs to inject some urgency in key areas.

Jantjies plays from too far back to be effective on attack. But in Pollard‚ Coetzee will have a player who can comfortably operate flat or deep.

Coetzee and company are also mindful of the threat France will pose in midfield.

"[Mathieu] Basteraud is a big threat‚" assistant coach Franco Smith said.

"Once he gets them over the advantage line, they go forward and their big pack comes into play with [Louis] Picamoles.

"Then they have a lively scrumhalf and outhalves that like getting onto the front foot.

"It is a slightly different wave of play than we saw from [Francois] Trinh-Duc and [Jules] Plisson in the first part of the season‚" Smith observed.

Jantjies was not alone in sharing the blunt elements in the Bok attack last week. Damian de Allende also copped flak for his leaden-footed performance.

By selecting a player some distance from his best‚ Coetzee was hoping that De Allende would play himself into form at the highest level.

That may not even be within the compass of the game’s best.

The other addition in the coach’s plan to remedy that channel is the introduction of Francois Venter at inside centre.

The Cheetahs skipper had a memorable 2016 but his star has not burnt that brightly since.

He is a willing workhorse who increasingly craves contact‚ but maybe that is exactly what the coach is looking for.

They cannot expect fireworks in attack, however.

Coetzee will in all likelihood retain Ross Cronjé at scrumhalf, although Louis Schreuder may be nudging closer to the prospect of action.

The two enforced changes in the pack will see Wilco Louw start in place of injured tighthead Coenie Oosthuizen.

Pieter-Steph du Toit’s absence will necessitate a backrow reconfiguration, with Francois Louw likely to move back to the No6 jersey and Siya Kolisi vacating that jersey for No7‚ while Duane Vermeulen will probably be the new No8.

Whether Kolisi plays less to the ball remains to be seen, but in Vermeulen the Boks now have a brute who can go toe-to-toe in the bash-it-up stakes with Picamoles.

"Someone with the same physical ability and bulk [of Du Toit] will be someone of interest‚" Smith said of Vermeulen.

"We still have Dan [du Preez] and Uzair [Cassiem] who can fill that role. Even Oupa [Mohoje], but it is good to have someone like that [Vermeulen] to add value. He made an immediate impact.

"He has a lot of information on the French rugby side and what has been happening here.

"It was good to have him in a calm way bring a bit of excitement and a bit of focus.

"We lack a bit of experience so we gladly welcome Duane back," Smith said.

France‚ meanwhile‚ will have dynamic flanker Kevin Gourdon available for the Test.

He was cleared of foul play by an independent World Rugby disciplinary committee.


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