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OPINION: Five plus three still equals eight

After claiming that he was 'well covered' by naming a forward-laden 6-2 bench against the Wallabies last week, Springbok coach Allister Coetzee learned a harsh lesson. 

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Only Lionel Mapoe and Willie le Roux were named as backline cover in a match day 23 along with six forwards. 


We have heard of versatility, but one could be forgiven for being a touch confused at Loftus last Saturday seeing Jaco Kriel eventually playing totally out of position on the wing after Bryan Habana left the field with a knock.


Earlier, Francois Hougaard had moved from wing to scrumhalf after Rudy Paige suffered concussion, but adding to the confusion, loose forward Willem Alberts replaced Paige, slotting into the  back row.


Despite the emergency measures at Loftus, Coetzee seemed initially intent on sticking with the 6-2 bench, or as close as possible anyway, liberally spraying the word 'impact' around at every opportunity.


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Ideally every team has its core group of what coaches like to call 'impact players', but in an ideal world, they are picked in their familiar positions and not usually as cover for what on Saturday  amounted to a Springbok casualty ward.


One thing is for certain though - Coetzee will have to change the Bok halfback combination yet again after Paige was ruled out, but one can't see him looking much beyond Hougaard as his starting option, with Faf de Klerk the likeliest to warm the bench.


So Bulls halfback Piet van Zyl, who was called up earlier in the week, would appear to have been nothing more than that 'emergency' option.


Or perhaps he may stick with Hougaard on the wing and start with De Klerk, who will have to kindle a never before tried halfback relationship with Morne Steyn, with the versatile Willie le Roux or even Johan Goosen, providing the backline cover.


If Habana, who has been training quietly by himself this week in a quest to regain full fitness, doesn't make the cut, then Le Roux may even find himself starting out wide.


Jesse Kriel's ongoing niggle is cause for concern which may have a disruptive effect in midfield and that might even see the recall of Damien de Allende to partner Juan de Jongh, with the latter donning the number 13 jersey. Lionel Mapoe is very versatile and equally as comfortable on the wing or at centre.


Kriel and Habana are set to undergo fitness tests ahead of the team announcement on Thursday, although the bigger injury cloud appears to be hanging over Kriel.


So maybe Coetzee isn't really far off the mark when he maintains he is 'covered' in all departments. Nobody could really foresee what transpired at Loftus and that was more the exception rather than the rule.


As for the forwards, Coetzee is unlikely to tamper with the pack, while a coach could do a lot worse than having a Lood de Jager, a Julian Redelinghuys, a Willem Alberts or a Jaco Kriel warming the bench initially.


Mathematically speaking, five plus three still equals eight


The Bok team will be announced at lunchtime on Thursday in Durban.


Possible Springbok starting XV: (15-1): 

Pat Lambie (Sharks), Bryan Habana (Toulon), Jesse Kriel (Bulls)/Lionel Mapoe (Stormers), Juan de Jongh (Stormers), Lionel Mapoe (Lions)/Willie le Roux, Morne Steyn (Stade Francias), Francois Hougaard (Bath), Warren Whiteley (Lions), Oupa Mahoje (Cheetahs), Francois Louw (Bath), Pieter Steph-Du Toit (Stormers), Eben Etzebeth (Stormers), Vincent Koch (Stormers),  

Adriaan Strauss (Bulls capt), Beast Mtawarira (Sharks).


Substitutes: Bongi Mbonambi (Stormers), Steven Kitshoff (Bordeaux), Julian Redelinghuys (Lions), Lood de Jager (Cheetahs), Willem Alberts (Stade Francais), Jaco Kriel (Lions), Willie le Roux (Canon Eagles)/Johan Goosen (Racing), Faf de Klerk.


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