There were a number of things we learnt from the Springboks on their tour of Europe.
While most of it centred around Allister Coetzee and his shortcomings as a coach, the playing staff’s underperformance somehow went unnoticed.
South Africa has big problems in the looseforward department, at halfback and in the midfield.
Here we take a look at the various positions and what the Boks need heading into 2017.
Fullback Willie le Roux actually did well on the European tour. But with him playing abroad and Saru in line to review how they manage the players plying their trade overseas, Le Roux might be a no-go next year.
Coetzee also experimented with Johan Goosen at the back of the line – and this too bombed.
As for the rookies coming through the system on the domestic front, Warrick Gelant and Cheslin Kolbe will probably fancy a shot next year. Clayton Blommetjies is another dark horse for this position.
Pat Lambie is another option, but this is a position of concern for the national team. *Rating 3.5
Halfbacks: At flyhalf, both Pat Lambie and Elton Jantjies failed to marshal the troops.
And on their inside, Faf de Klerk started the year on fire, before fading into a deep sleep.
The player used to rotate with him, Rudy Paige, is also not the answer.
The lack of a decent scrumhalf that can control the forwards, give good front-foot ball and dictate the game is a real concern for the national team.
The return of Handre Pollard will be a welcome addition in 2017. *Rating 3
Midfield: This is the one area in which the Boks lacked some real oomph throughout the year. Coetzee tested a lot ofcombinations and ended with the people’s choice in Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Francois Venter in the Test against Wales.
Damian de Allende admitted that the amount of rugby he played messed up his game. Lionel Mapoe probably would have benefited from playing next to Van Rensburg instead.
There is still a player like Jan Serfontein who needs to come back.
But for all of these players, the Boks have lost their sharpness and creativity in the midfield. *Rating 3
Front Row Hooker is the main concern for the Springboks, with captain Adriaan Strauss, who didn’t enjoy a good year, having retired from international rugby.
Bongi Mbonambi isn’t the answer, while Malcolm Marx hasn’t shown enough in the Green and Gold to make fans excited about the future.
As for the strong men propping up the scrums, it was good to see Beast Mtawarira returning to some sort of form, but Vincent Koch didn’t enjoy the best of times overseas.
With Steven Kitshoff, Trevor Nyakane and Ox Nche coming through, the future looks good at loosehead prop.
The neck injury to Julian Redelinghuys on the tighthead is a concern, while the return of Frans Malherbe will be a boost. * Rating 4
Wings: It’s a real pity Sergeal Petersen fell off the bus, pun intended, in the match against the Barbarians.
The Boks are blessed with good wings, though. Jamba Ulengo didn’t see much of the ball on debut against Wales, but he will be there in the future.
Then they’ve also got a guy like Ruan Combrinck. And with Seabelo Senatla making his switch from sevens to the XV-man code, expect good competition for these positions. *Rating 4.5
Loosies: Injuries to Siya Kolisi, Francois Louw and the unavailability of Duane Vermeulen hit the Boks big time on their overseas tour.
Coetzee tried a lot of combinations, but the lack of an out-and-out fetcher really put the team on the back foot.
Maybe it’s time to patch things up with Heinrich Brussow.
Warren Whiteley, too, didn’t have the impact expected of him at No.8. *Rating 3
Locks: The injury to Eben Etzebeth in the match against England turned out to be a blessing in disguise – it led to him not being able to have a short stint over in the UK during the Christmas period.
South Africa will always be blessed with good locks and next year won’t be any different.
With Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Lood de Jager fighting for two spots, they still have Franco Mostert and RG Snyman who won’t let the team down. * Rating 7