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Cronje back at scrumhalf for Boks, Pollard on bench

The only other change to the starting team is at lock, where Franco Mostert is rested with the Stormers' Pieter-Steph du Toit making his first start for the season in a rotational switch.

FILE: Springbok scrumhalf Ross Cronje runs in to score a try. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN - Ross Cronjé has recovered from his ankle injury and comes back at scrumhalf in the Springbok team for Saturday’s key Rugby Championship Test in Perth against Australia.

Cronjé has established himself as the first choice No 9 this season for the Boks. He resumes the scrumhalf duties after missing the victory in Salta a fortnight ago, while Francois Hougaard returns to the bench.

The only other change to the starting team is at lock, where Franco Mostert is rested with the Stormers' Pieter-Steph du Toit making his first start for the season in a rotational switch.

Mostert has been an impeccable workhorse for the Springboks and the Lions this season and coach Allister Coetzee has handed him a break because of his heavy workload.

Du Toit is the current SA Rugby Player of the Year and the big lock is reunited in the second row with Bok captain, Eben Etzebeth. The 25-year-old Etzebeth leads the Springboks for the fourth time this season, while Lood de Jager will start on the bench.

The final change for Coetzee to the match-23 that played in Salta, sees flyhalf Handré Pollard on the bench after a long injury lay off, a clear indication of Coetzee’s admiration of his ability.
Pollard, who can also easily slot into midfield if needed, makes his first appearance in a matchday squad since the 2015 Rugby World Cup and only time will tell if he is match ready.

Coetzee shared his thinking behind resting Mostert, who has established himself as the starting No 5 lock this year, and has been a stalwart figure in the Springboks’ five wins so far this season.

“Franco has played an enormous amount of rugby – at Super Rugby level, playing club rugby in Japan and starting all of our Tests matches so far this year. We have to be sensible in managing the workload of certain players, such as Franco. We are fortunate to have a number of very good locks. Pieter-Steph now gets an opportunity to start again, and we know what he is capable of.”

Pollard has apparently fought his way back to full fitness and comes onto the replacement bench. According to Coetzee, Pollard has worked extremely hard to get back into selection frame after another injury sustained earlier this year.

“I am really satisfied with the way he has trained till now and it’s great for the team to have a player of his calibre on the bench.”

Coetzee praised the hard work and attitude of the squad, which has resulted in five Springbok wins in a row. The Boks scored a 3-0 series win over France in June and defeated Argentina home and away in the opening rounds of the Rugby Championship.

“Even though we travelled to three continents in ten days, this group has the desire to get better, and learn from previous experiences. The performance in Salta was not perfect, but we are looking forward to the next opportunity to improve as individuals and as a team.”

The Springbok coach again emphasised that the Wallabies will come with a massive challenge on Saturday.

“They are a well-coached side, with great deception on attack. Their playmakers and strike runners complement each other very well and we will have to be very sharp on defence. If you look at their performances against New Zealand, you will see how well they have functioned in scoring nine tries and 63 points in two matches.”

Saturday’s Test match will be the Springboks’ first match at the nib Stadium, which was built in 1910 and renovated in 2004 and 2012. It has been the home of the Western Force since 2010 and the seating capacity is 20,251. The last time that South Africa were victorious in Perth was in August 2009, when the side led by John Smit won 32-25.