Duane Vermeulen, the Bok No 8, at training in Paris. Pic: SA Rugby

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Boks set for team changes to bolster all-round arsenal in Paris

November 15 – Handre Pollard, Duane Vermeulen and Wilco Louw are all expected to start for the Springboks in this Saturday’s Test against France in Paris.

Following last Saturday’s historic heaviest-ever loss to Ireland in Dublin, coach Allister Coetzee is expected to make at least three personnel changes ahead of what is effectively a must-win match at the Stade de France.

The one unenforced change is set to be the selection of Pollard in place of Elton Jantjies, who has started all 10 Tests this year, but again battled to control proceedings with the desired effect against Ireland.

After featuring off the bench in three Tests this year, Pollard is now in line to start his first Test since the 2015 World Cup as the Boks look to add some greater physicality and a longer kicking game to their all-round arsenal.

Commenting from the team’s base in Paris this week, Pollard said the Boks needed to quickly adapt to the northern hemisphere conditions and show greater patience on attack.

“In these conditions, you have to show some calm. We have to be clinical and do the basics better than we did last week. Then the moments of magic will come.”

Pollard’s inclusion may be the only change to the backline, but there could also be a case made for the inclusion of Warrick Gelant at fullback, and perhaps a call-up for Francois Venter or Lukhanyo Am in the midfield.

However, what appears more certain is that Duane Vermeulen will come straight in to start at No 8 following the concussion that has ruled Pieter-Steph du Toit out of this Saturday’s Test.

That injury will force a back-row reshuffle, with Francois Louw set to shift from No 8 to a more familiar position on the flank alongside Siya Kolisi

For Vermeulen, it will be his first Bok appearance since featuring against Ireland in last year’s June series, with the experienced No 8 having been called up to the Bok camp this week as a result of the injury to Coenie Oosthuizen.

Oosthuizen suffered a serious knee injury against Ireland, but the Boks opted against calling up a prop replacement as they felt that there was enough cover up front.

Louw is expected to claim the No 3 jersey in the absence of Oosthuizen, while Ruan Dreyer will provide tighthead prop cover from the bench, with Trevor Nyakana also capable of offering back-up.

The Springbok team will be named on Thursday afternoon.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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