Coetzee’s selections point to a man in survival mode
Several Springboks made their way to Venice on their day off on Wednesday and it would not have been lost on them how the enchanting city is struggling to stay above water.
It is a sight they are familiar with.
Their coach Allister Coetzee has been trying to keep his head above water for much of the last year and it is not difficult to see why the coach believes his buoyancy is inextricably linked to assembling his best available team.
The prevailing tide dictates that he pushes his best available resources into battle against Italy on Saturday but he has been forced into two significant amendments.
Hooker Malcolm Marx‚ who has started every Test this year‚ injured his shoulder against France last weekend and had been on the doubtful list all week.
He doesn’t feature in the match 23.
On the side of the scrum Pieter-Steph du Toit’s return had been widely anticipated and he will fill the void left by Siya Kolisi who travelled home on paternity leave.
Marx’s absence is a huge setback for the Boks.
The team’s coaches this week stressed the need to front up and knock Italy onto the back foot in the physical exchanges‚ an activity Marx would have involved himself with some relish.
He has set himself apart in that position‚ to the point that the next in line‚ Mbonambi has had very little game time.
Before this tour Mbonambi had collected just 93 minutes over the last year.
This is a huge opportunity for Mbonambi who will bring considerable thrust to the scrums.
Chiliboy Ralepelle gets a chance to occupy a spot in the bench‚ but he too may need to shake off the cobwebs.
On the bench as well is Warrick Gelant‚ with the potential of a debut for the young Bulls dynamo.
Coetzee will be hugely relieved that captain Eben Etzebeth has come through this week without suffering further mischief to the lower leg injury he suffered against France.
He was carefully managed this week.
Overall‚ however‚ Coetzee’s selections speaks of a man in survival mode.
He cannot afford another mishap like the one he encountered in Florence last year.
Defeat will almost certainly spell the end of his reign as Bok coach at the end of the tour.
His selection policy on this tour has stood in stark contrast to the building phase All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has embarked upon.
The All Blacks have two additional matches on their northern hemisphere tour which will present the coach the opportunity to blood several new players with a view to the 2019 Rugby World Cup and beyond.
Springboks to play Italy – Andries Coetzee; Dillyn Leyds‚ Jesse Kriel‚ Francois Venter‚ Courtnall Skosan; Handre Pollard‚ Ross Cronje; Duane Vermeulen‚ Pieter-Steph du Toit‚ Francois Louw; Lood de Jager‚ Eben Etzebeth (captain); Wilco Louw‚ Bongi Mbonambi‚ Tendai Mtawarira.
Substitutes: Chiliboy Ralepelle‚ Steven Kitshoff‚ Trevor Nyakane‚ Franco Mostert‚ Dan du Preez; Rudy Paige‚ Elton Jantjies‚ Warrick Gelant.