Boks roll the dice

With nothing to lose, Allister Coetzee has gambled on size and has chosen a monstrous pack

06 October 2017 - 06:36 By Craig Ray
South Africa head coach Allister Coetzee. File photo
South Africa head coach Allister Coetzee. File photo

The battle lines are clear - the Springboks have chosen a monstrous pack to take on the All Blacks in the one area where the home team believe the world champions might have a small chink - the set piece.

Prop Steven Kitshoff will make his first Test start after 18 appearances from the bench and Pieter-Steph du Toit will start at blindside flank for the third time in a Test. Lock Lood de Jager returns to the second row as the Boks stuffed their pack with tall, powerful timber.

Coach Allister Coetzee's selections suggest that the plan of playing ball-in-hand from all areas of the field might give way to a more direct attacking approach from the Boks.

The Boks' line-out suffered against the All Blacks three weeks ago when they lost five balls on their throw.

But the All Blacks are missing Brodie Retallick and that might have influenced the Bok thinking. With Eben Etzebeth, Du Toit and De Jager starting, and Franco Mostert and Jean-Luc du Preez on the bench, the home team have no shortage of line-out options.

Kitshoff also brings a high work rate in the loose and supreme power in the scrums, which will be aided by the strapping Du Toit scrumming behind him. Replacing the reinvigorated Tendai Mtawarira, who pulled out for unspecified personal reasons, is a big task but Kitshoff probably should have earned a start much sooner in his career.

Du Toit's selection could be seen as a risk, but at this stage of the season, with nothing to lose, Coetzee needed to gamble.

Francois Louw will wear No8 for the first time in a Test, but he packed down at No8 a few times against Australia last week. It's not a major alteration.

The last two times Du Toit started a Test at flank the Boks suffered. Most infamously he wore No7 in the opening game of Rugby World Cup 2015 against Japan, which the Boks lost.

Last year Du Toit reprised the role against England at Twickenham and was twice embarrassed when he was caught out by scrumhalf Ben Youngs leading to two England tries. Those experiments were failures but there is much to suggest it could work.

Du Toit, for one, is playing good rugby. He's confident and mobile as well as big and physical. Secondly, he offers another line-out option and his power in the scrum is unquestioned.

"I wanted us to go out and play with our most experienced players, and then to ensure that we fix what didn't go well in Albany, such as our line-outs," Coetzee explained.

"For this game we've got the perfect combination and balance."