The Springboks were thumped by Ireland in their tour opener, but fought back for a one-point victory against France last weekend.
The scars of their shock defeat to Italy this time last year may have played on the selectors’ minds, but today’s Test against Italy presented South Africa with their best chance of giving new players a run at international level. Instead, by not blooding new players today, it sends out a message that Coetzee cannot afford to lose another Test, without planning for the future.
This week Coetzee rightfully brought in hooker Bongi Mbonambi for superstar Malcolm Marx, who was declared medically unfit after picking up a shoulder injury the week before, and Pieter-Steph du Toit at flank for Siya Kolisi, back home to be with his wife for the birth of their child.
Bringing in Mbonambi is overdue. The Stormers hooker will finally get his first start in a Springbok jersey after coming off the bench on 12 occasions. Marx has hardly had a rest since Super Rugby season started. He needs to be protected, and we need to see what depth we have in the No 2 position.
While the Mbonambi promotion is a good one, the lack of change in the backline is puzzling. Even though Coetzee included the exciting Warren Gelant on the bench, he should have made more changes. Why not give Curwin Bosch a go at flyhalf? Why not start with Gelant? Or give promising centre Lukhanyo Am a run?
Rudi Paige should have started at scrumhalf, while Louis Schreuder should have been included as the No 9 back-up. We know what the likes of Andries Coetzee, Courtnall Skosan and Ross Cronje bring to the table.
Fortune favours the brave. It’s time to step out of the comfort zone, Mr Coetzee.