Killer combos key for Bokke

Killer combos key for Bokke

SETTLED SECOND ROW: Cape locks Du Toit and Eben Etzebeth know each other well

Toetie should pick first team around familiar pairings.

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And this will be Springbok coach Allister Coetzee’s biggest headache when they start the 2017 term against France at Loftus on June 10.

Let’s start in the front row.

For years the names of Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis and Jannie du Plessis have been engraved on the Bok teamsheet.

Hooker Adriaan Strauss, who led the team last year, replaced Bismarck as the new No.2 in the squad in 2016, but he has since retired from international rugby.

Mtawarira is the only “original” still left in the squad, but he couldn’t even win a starting spot for his franchise against the Stormers this past weekend.

At 31, he is not oor die muur – although his performances might suggest so.

But if Coetzee is looking at 2019, we will in all likelihood see a new front row with the likes of Steven Kitshoff, Ruan Dreyer, Frans Malherbe, Lizo Gqoboka, Coenie Oosthuizen and the Beast competing for the two prop spots in the starting lineup.

In the middle of the front row, I was surprised to see Chiliboy Ralepelle recalled to the national team – especially after serving a ban for using an anabolic steroid a few years ago.

Still, with the lack of hookers in the country, it was most probably either him or a recall for Bismarck.

Malcolm Marx, I believe, will man the hooker position and having played next to Mtawarira for the Boks last year, they now need a tighthead to complete a “familiar” front row.

If experience is what Coetzee will take into account for the first Test, Frans Malherbe, although not in the form of his life, might wear the No.3 jumper in a front row that will consist of a Shark, a Lion and a Stormer.

At lock, there shouldn’t be much of a concern with regard to combinations.

As a combo, the Stormers’ Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit has been deadly at times this year and should be used as starters.

The Lions’ Warren Whiteley will be the No.8 and will skipper the side.

But exactly who will pack down next to him will be interesting.

Fellow Lion Jaco Kriel is the type of player that you want to use off the bench.

Whiteley is already a running No.8, meaning the coach might opt to use Duane Vermeulen as his blindside flanker and Stormers captain Siya Kolisi as openside.

That will also be a new trio.

To the backline and halfbacks.

I was glad to see that Francois Hougaard was named in the squad as a scrumhalf. He is not a wing and should wear the No.9 jersey.

Rudy Paige is Coetzee’s other starting option – that’s if he wants to play a territorial game.

But with Hougaard at nine and Elton Jantjies at 10, I am sure the Boks can match the French in terms of creativity in that channel.

It’s certainly one that excites me.

Long-range kicking and a booming right boot, meanwhile, with a good physical presence are all things that will excite any coach looking for an inside centre.

Add to that the ability to spread the ball like a flyhalf and you’ve got Frans Steyn at inside centre.

Who to partner him with is yet another concern.

If it is Jesse Kriel, simply because Lukhanyo Am left the field with an injury on Saturday, then you’ve got a solid midfield partnership. But again, it’s one that hasn’t played together before.

Therefore, Coetzee might use Jan Serfontein instead and use the versatility of Steyn off the bench.

The back three will also be new.

Either one of Kriel or Steyn might be used at fullback because they’ve got international experience in that position.

If not, it will be a newbie. Either Andries Coetzee or Dillyn Leyds.

And with the candidates on the wing being Leyds, Raymond Rhule and Courtnall Skosan, it’s clear Coetzee will have a brand-new back three that has not played together yet.

My crystal ball says the Boks will be a bit disjointed in the first few matches of the year.

But they do have enough class in the team to beat the French. And winning is a non-negotiable for the Class of 2017.

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