Wales could be Allister Coetzee’s last chance to show his mettle
Cardiff — Had Allister Coetzee’s job security not been such an insecurity‚ the Springbok coach might have considered some bold selections for Saturday’s Test against Wales in Cardiff.
The Test outside the international window has already diminished both teams’ call-up powers‚ thus robbing the fixture of a true sense of occasion.
Tests in early December should really be about "last man standing" and less about under-the-cosh coaches trying to avoid being "the biggest loser".
Coetzee names his team on Thursday and has vowed to field his best available side for the occasion in the hope of leaving a lingering memory as he heads into a much anticipated review with his employers.
Should he hold on to his job he may reflect on Saturday as an opportunity lost to build experience in his young squad.
With the Principality Stadium’s roof set to be closed and a dry surface thus guaranteed‚ the coach would have just cause to be bolder in his selections.
Earlier in the week he was talking up the virtues of fullback Warrick Gelant as an attacking three-quarter. The Bulls player‚ who made his Test debut as a substitute on the wing against Italy‚ was electrifying in the Currie Cup.
He may not possess the all-weather game that is demanded for long tours in these parts‚ but Gelant’s sense of space and timing are qualities that are hard to ignore on any surface.
Fullback Andries Coetzee has not exactly made the No15 jersey his own‚ but the coach places huge stock in the range of the player’s left boot.
Should the coach still hold strong convictions about Coetzee’s continued presence at fullback, Gelant can also be considered on the left wing.
Courtnall Skosan has featured in all 11 Tests for the Boks this season but has not done so with great distinction.
He may yet make a greater impact in Test rugby but his game currently is not emboldened by the confidence that makes him grow an arm and a leg at the Lions.
If Coetzee really wants to dazzle‚ Gelant on the wing and Curwin Bosch at fullback would provide the right stuff.
Despite rarely warming up to the demands of his position‚ Jesse Kriel has established himself as a near permanent fixture in Coetzee’s line-ups.
It is unlikely that the coach will amend his midfield‚ especially with Francois Venter running some incisive lines since his introduction for the Test against France in Paris.
Handré Pollard’s performance against Italy last week drew many plaudits and while Ross Cronjé performed well in the first half in Padua‚ the coach‚ as a former scrumhalf himself‚ will be all too aware of broadening experience in that area.
It is not so much Cronjé deserving to be left out as Rudy Paige and Louis Schreuder standing to gain tremendously from some valuable game time.
The quad injury loosehead Tendai Mtawarira suffered against Italy has cast much doubt over his availability.
Malcolm Marx is expected to make a return this week, but this is another area in which Coetzee should consider developing contingencies for the future. It is unlikely to happen here.
The Bok back-row will be reshaped this weekend‚ with Siya Kolisi returning to take the No6 jersey vacated by Francois Louw‚ but the coach needs to decide who to give the responsibility of replacing Duane Vermeulen at No8.
Forwards coach Matt Proudfoot believes Uzair Cassiem is a closer fit to the Vermeulen mould than, say‚ Dan du Preez‚ but in compiling a back-row the primary consideration should be to mitigate the loss of Louw.
Du Preez is quite adept at holding up the opposition’s advances in the tackle. Du Preez striking a wrecking ball partnership with Pieter-Steph du Toit could be a formidable prospect.
Lock Du Toit is feeling the effects of a barnstorming performance against Italy, but do not discount a patched-up Bok No7 devastating the Welsh pack.