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The changes the Boks must make to return to winning ways

By Jan De Koning
(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Given South Africa’s perilous position, don’t expect Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber to ‘experiment’ too much Down Under.

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Given Nienaber’s generally mossbacked approach since taking over from Rassie Erasmus in 2020 and given how the experimentation in the second Test against Wales in July went pearshaped, any tryouts are likely to come in the latter stages of the Rugby Championship – if South Africa is in a favourable position on the standings.

Given the embarrassing 23-35 loss at Ellis Park in Round Two, putting out a ‘winning’ combination will be most likely what Nienaber will do when he announces his team on Monday for the first of the back-to-back matches with Australia.

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The Wallabies host the Boks in Adelaide this coming Saturday, August 27, and in Sydney a week later.

Nienaber has brought his team announcement forward a day, from the usual Tuesday routine.

That is already a clear indication of how determined he is to right the listing Bok ship.

While there will be at least one change – on the right wing, where Jessie Kriel is set to miss the game as a result of the concussion he suffered at Ellis Park – the bulk of the team looks set to stay unchanged.

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Of course, there are some areas of concern – such as the front row, loose forward and scrumhalf.

Those are areas for debate and speculation.

Canan Moodie and Warrick Gelant are in the running to replace Kriel – a simple case of raw talent against experience.

Moodie is the future, but Nienaber may be tempted to go the ‘conservative’ route.

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Some pundits have hinted that Lukhanyo Am, who moved to the wing at Ellis Park, could start in the No.14 jersey and create a midfield vacancy that could see Andre Esterhuizen come into the picture.

The big question is at scrumhalf.

Will Francois de Klerk, who was concussed in the first Test in Nelspruit and missed the Round Two outing, start in Adelaide? Or will Jaden Hendrikse – who produced the ultimate horror show at Ellis Park get another run?

There is also Herschel Jantjies and Cobus Reinach to consider.

Conservative = De Klerk.

Another player who was so disappointing in the Johannesburg outing that his absence is likely top be greeted with cheers rather than jeers, is veteran World Cup winner Duane Vermeulen.

Jasper Wiese has not let the team down, even though his questionable discipline is becoming a proverbial prickly pear for the team. Elrigh Louw is waiting in the wings.

Given the underwhelming performances of Joseph Dweba and Retshegofaditswe Nche at Ellis Park, the names of Trevor Nyakane and Malcolm Marx will come up when the starting XV is discussed.

The bench can also do with some refreshing – especially if Nienaber moves away from his preferred six forwards and two backs split to a more traditional five-three selection.

The names of Elton Jantjies and Frans Steyn could feature, while utility forward Deon Fourie could get a look in.

Jan de Koning‘s proposed starting XV: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Canan Moodie, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Jasper Wiese, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Lodewyk de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Retshegofaditswe Nche, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Albertus Smith, 21 Herschel Jantjies, 22 Frans Steyn, 23 Willie le Roux.

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