Fly-half conundrum for Coetzee

Date published: September 21 2016

Coach Allister Coetzee has given himself plenty of options with the return of Willie le Roux and Pat Lambie to the Springbok squad. 

What does Le Roux's inclusion mean for the immediate future of Johan Goosen? How fit and ready is Lambie for Test rugby after missing the last three months due to a head injury and playing just 40 minutes for the Sharks in the Currie Cup last week?

These questions could all be answered over the next week as the Boks prepare for their final two Tests in the Rugby Championship against Australia and New Zealand respectively.

South Africa are on a three-match losing streak and will want to avoid finishing last in the standings for the second year in the row when all is said and done.

Le Roux's inclusion could have been seen as a bit of a surprise, but taking into the account the struggles of Elton Jantjies and Goosen's inability to settle at full-back Coetzee probably felt he didn't have much of a choice. Le Roux was poor in the June series against Ireland and was initially not selected for the Rugby Championship to give him time to settle at his new club in Japan.

It confirms Coetzee's reluctance to move Jesse Kriel from centre to full-back and is likely a sign that Coetzee doesn't fancy him in the number 15 jersey or just thinks he is better suited to outside centre. 

Johan Goosen has blown hot and cold at the back and if Le Roux is selected could move to outside centre where he has played most of his rugby for his club Racing 92.

It's risky to include Lambie but whether he will start against Australia remains to be seen. It's a pity the Sharks have a bye this weekend in the Currie Cup because it robs the player of gaining more minutes under his belt before being thrown straight back into the Test rugby.

Nevertheless, Coetzee must be desperate after Elton Jantjies gave another poor performance in the heavy defeat to the All Blacks last weekend. Players have been dropped in the past for less so Jantjies's time is probably up.

Coetzee has several options at fly-half and full-back for the home leg of the competition.

Instead of full-back and centre Goosen can also be considered at fly-half although he doesn't play there often enough anymore. It probably won't happen if Lambie is deemed fit to play, at least from the bench, unless Coetzee continues with Jantjies for one more game.

There isn't much to choose between Le Roux and Goosen at full-back. The former is arguably a bigger attacking threat while the latter has a bigger boot. 

If Lambie can't start the Test against Australia Coetzee must choose between giving Jantjies one more go, giving Goosen the number 10 jersey or backing Morne Steyn in the role. Steyn remains the safest option at this stage and if Coetzee doesn't trust a player of his experience and pedigree to start he shouldn't be in the squad. 

Taking all this into account, the route which will result in the least amount of disruption is to pick Steyn at fly-half, keep Goosen at full-back and include both Le Roux and Lambie on the bench.

by Kobus Pretorius