Springbok coach Allister Coetzee . Picture: AFP PHOTO/MARTY MELVILLE
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee . Picture: AFP PHOTO/MARTY MELVILLE

The Springbok coaching staff showed clarity in their selection policies on Thursday even though they surprised slightly by selecting Uzair Cassiem at No 8.

The Boks will have no shortage of lineout options both in the starting XV and on the bench for Saturday’s vital rugby Championship opener against Argentina in Port Elizabeth.

Cassiem was named at No 8 over Jean-Luc du Preez in an otherwise predictably straightforward selection by coach Allister Coetzee.

The Cheetahs used Cassiem sparingly as a lineout option in Super Rugby‚ taking 12 balls over the entire season while managing to steal two.

But with lock Eben Etzebeth and Franco Mostert as primary ball winners‚ Cassiem’s mobility around the park and his ability as an extra breakdown option are what probably tipped the selection his way.

Cassiem is a good carrier and a nuisance over the ball.

His selection will also have the added effect of throwing the Pumas’ analysis off as they wouldn't have expected such a left field selection from the Boks.

It will be only his second cap‚ his first coming at the end of the disappointing 2016 season when the Boks lost to Wales in Cardiff.

Cassiem was one of few Bok players to come out of that match with his reputations in tact.

The Free Stater is closest in style to the rangy‚ but injured Warren Whiteley‚ which was another factor in his selection.

Blindside flank Siya Kolisi is also a lineout option while Du Preez and Pieter-Steph du Toit on the bench give the Boks more artillery from the bench in that area as well.

Coetzee didn’t tinker too much with what worked during the 3-0 series win over France in June.

The only other change to the backline sees scrumhalf Ross Cronje‚ who missed the third Test in June through injury‚ return to the starting lineup with Francois Hougaard relegated to the bench.

Although the team shows consistency in selection from June‚ it also highlights just how much has changed in less than year for the team.

There are a total of 15 changes to the 23 that lost 57-15 to the All Blacks in Durban in their final outing of the 2016 Rugby Championship.

Several casualties from that day weren’t available this week due to injury but even taking away the likes of Whiteley and Julian Redelinghuys‚ who played that match‚ it’s still a high turnover in less than a year.

It points to more clarity from the coaching staff‚ who demonstrated a clear plan both in terms of selection and tactics in June after the flailing about of last year.

The addition of Brendan Venter as a consultant has added a goal-driven voice of reason while Franco Smith has been able to become more influential in the team’s tactical approach.

Cronje’s selection highlights this.

His ability to kick cleverly‚ clear the base of rucks quickly‚ coupled with his understanding of playing alongside flyhalf Elton Jantjies‚ superseded any of the athletic and x-factor advantages Hougaard brings.

Similarly centre Jan Serfontein is now the clear leader of the backline defence as well as a man who can set the attack from No 12.

Jantjies now has players either side of him‚ with whom he is forming an understanding‚ which will add to the cohesiveness of the team’s attack in particular.

With a backline that played virtually the entire June series together‚ the Boks should start bringing more detail and intricacy to their backline play while Curwin Bosch’s inclusion on the bench is the right way to introduce his sparkling talent to the Test arena. - TimesLIVE


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