Here’s what’s making the news with the Springboks, England and world champion All Blacks.
Fringe players unlikely to get a run-out
The likes of Lukhanyo Am and Warrick Gelant, who both had outstanding Super Rugby campaigns, are still playing more of a spectator role on their maiden Bok tour. Allister Coetzee said yesterday that Saturday’s test is no time for experimentation, and that’s bad news for the talented young backline players, amongst others.
Speaking to Sport24, he said “What the team needs is to build better momentum. There will be opportunities in the last game because it falls outside the Test window. Four players won’t part of that – Duane (Vermeulen), Francois (Louw), Elton Jantjies and Franco Mostert. So we will be giving opportunities then (against Wales)… but this weekend is an opportunity to build momentum and make sure we get another successful result.”
Only six Springboks who made the starting fifteen in Florence last year, are in Saturday’s squad. The much-changed Bok outfit is down to numerous factors, namely injury and a loss of faith by the head coach. The six players are Francois Venter, Damian de Allende, Rudy Paige, Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Tendai Mtawarira. Out of that group, De Allende and Venter have received the most stick from supporters and pundits for their performances, while Rudy Paige has not even got a look-in.
Will a large-scale change of personnel guarantee a change of result?
Coetzee focused on the aerial battle and improving discipline
Springbok coach Allister Coetzee, has isolated the aerial battle and discipline as key factors against Italy on Saturday. Just a year after that shocking 20-18 loss in Florence, he is keen to stress that The Boks must improve under the contestable ball, especially after their 38-3 hammering by Ireland two weeks ago. That day, Ireland kicked on the outside backs and it reaped rewards.
Ahead of Saturday, Coetzee is calling for discipline, saying “In these Test matches you’re looking at keeping the opposition out, and the one way you can do that is to be very calculated in terms of not conceding penalties. Italy has a great driving maul and you can only get to a driving maul from a lineout. And you get to a lineout when you concede penalties and they get a touch-finder. It is a massive focus for us.
The other big step up we’d like to make is how we deal with 80 minutes of contestable kicks. Every game we have conceded a try. We want to focus completely on handling it well and dealing with it and making sure that the players around the catcher are in a position to take charge.”
Kickoff on Saturday is at 15:00 (CAT) for the Boks’ penultimate match of their Northern Hemisphere tour.
All Blacks World Number one again ahead of daunting 2018 schedule
The 2018 schedule has been released and it’s a demanding one for the best rugby team in the world for eight years running.
Their year from hell will contain fourteen test matches (same as in 2017) but it is made more physically taxing because of the revamped Super Rugby schedule, and slight changes to the timing of the tail end to their test season. It’s tough at the top.
Eddie Jones faces openside flanker shortage for Saturday’s Samoa test
England’s meeting with Samoa at Twickenham on Saturday comes a week after their thrilling victory against Australia, the third best side in the world.
Early team news reveals that Sam Underhill will not be risked in England’s last Autumn international, after sustaining a concussion against Australia. Tom Currie dislocated his wrist at the start of the Autumn Internationals. After coach Jones didn’t call up any alternatives, he might be forced into shuffling his side with Chris Robshaw the likeliest man to fill the vacancy.
Opponents Samoa have yet to win a test match in 2017, their latest disappointing result coming on the weekend in a 37-13 loss to Romania.
Kickoff is scheduled for 15:00 on Saturday the 25th at Twickenham.