Francois Hougaard. Picture: REUTERS
Francois Hougaard. Picture: REUTERS

He already intimated that he will keep changes for the third test against France to the bare minimum‚ but Springbok coach Allister Coetzee cannot avoid some minor amendments when he announces his team on Thursday.

Coetzee will‚ for obvious reasons‚ try and maintain the momentum that saw his side sweep to a series victory in the first two tests when the teams lock horns for the last time at Ellis Park on Saturday.

With scrumhalf Ross Cronjé and flank Oupa Mohoje both yielding to concussion‚ and Lionel Mapoe dropping down to SA A side‚ the coach is likely to make at least three changes to his starting team.

Cronjé looks set to be replaced by Francois Hougaard for his first start since the Springboks lost to the All Blacks in Durban last year.

The shoulder injury Hougaard sustained back then required surgery‚ which kept him out of last year’s end-of-season tour but he saw action off the bench in the first two tests in this series.

Rudy Paige is also in the mix‚ but it would be a surprise if he were to leapfrog Hougaard into the starting line-up.

Although Cronjé will be disappointed to miss out in front of his home crowd‚ the Ellis Park faithful can look forward to the prospect of Hougaard bringing a different dimension to the Bok attack.

Behind a pack in the ascendancy Hougaard can reduce the Tricolores to headless chickens‚ especially if their forwards fall off the pace early in the game.

The visitors‚ who are at the end of their season‚ have looked lethargic in the first two tests and they will have to summon energy levels and grit to be competitive this weekend.

On the side of the scrum Coetzee’s replacement for Mohoje should be straightforward. Captain Warren Whiteley‚ Siya Kolisi and last week’s backrow substitute Jean-Luc du Preez combined well in Durban‚ which should warrant preservation of the same combination this weekend.

However‚ Lions tearaway flank Jaco Kriel is fit again and‚ like Hougaard‚ could bring a dimension that requires greater aerobic endurance of opponents who look prone to drawing long breaths.

Kriel could of course be deployed with a similar brief off the bench as the French are likely to be vulnerable in the final quarter.

Another Kriel‚ Jesse‚ has also been restored to full fitness after he was concussed in the first test at Loftus. He will take his place in the No.13 jersey next to Jan Serfontein‚ who increasingly looks surer of pass and lengthier of stride.

Coetzee may consider elevating tighthead Ruan Dreyer for a potential debut in front of his home fans‚ but he did say he wants to contain the changes.

- TimesLIVE


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