CAPE TOWN – Springbok coach Allister Coetzee sprung a major surprise by including utility back Dillyn Leyds and loose forward Oupa Mohoje among a group of five players who have been released from the squad.
Leyds (Western Province), Mohoje (Cheetahs), Francois Venter (Cheetahs) and Blue Bulls duo Lizo Gqoboka and Warrick Gelant will rejoin their respective provinces after completing Tuesday’s Bok training session in Port Elizabeth ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship opener against Argentina at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (5.05pm kickoff).
Leyds and Mohoje could reasonably have expected to be part of the match-23 for the Test, with Leyds having been on the bench against France, while blindside flank Mohoje started the first two Tests and was ruled out of the third after taking a knock to the head.
In fact, they could’ve been regarded as strong contenders for the starting line-up – Leyds at right wing for Raymond Rhule and Mohoje as a specialist at No 7 for Jaco Kriel – but Coetzee has shown his hand for Saturday’s Test and is following a different path.
Rhule is clearly set to continue at No 14 against Los Pumas despite a few shortcomings on defence and a low work-rate during the French series, while Jean-Luc du Preez is the likely starter at blindside flank.
With Warren Whiteley and Duane Vermeulen out injured, and specialist No 8s Nizaam Carr, Sikhumbuzo Notshe and Andisa Ntsila ignored, it has been speculated that Cheetahs star Uzair Cassiem may start at No 8 in a loose trio alongside Du Preez and Siya Kolisi at openside flank.
Leyds was also an option at fullback and a perfect utility back on the bench, but incumbent Andries Coetzee is set to remain at No 15 and Rhule at wing, with the versatile Sharks wunderkind Curwin Bosch a possible bench back-up for the entire backline.
With Tendai Mtawarira unlikely to be ready and Frans Malherbe already ruled out with a neck problem, there could be two new Bok starting props in Steven Kitshoff at loosehead and Coenie Oosthuizen at No 3.
Coetzee will announce his match-23 on Thursday, with the 28-man squad for the away game against Argentina in Salta next Saturday to be named next week Tuesday. The group will leave for South America on the Wednesday.