Allister Coetzee’s latest Springboks squad has been greeted with mixed feelings.
Despite retaining various players that made their mark in the 3-o series win over France, the national coach hardly had the most experienced group of players at his disposal.
And some selections have arguably compounded that situation.
In fact, the feeling persists that Coetzee hasn’t actually improved his squad from the French series.
Here are the most prominent issues facing the team.
The Warren Whiteley factor
As much as the presence of assistant coaches Brendan Venter and Franco Smith have contributed a new spirit in the national camp, the inspirational Lions skipper’s influence can’t be underestimated.
He’s been the man that’s led the way, uniting a group of men who were left with shattered morale after the 2016 season.
However, despite Coetzee saying otherwise, the leadership depth is rather thin.
The Springboks are still in a fragile state, regardless of an encouraging start to the year.
Whiteley’s absence could become a massive disruption.
What’s up with the rookies?
South African rugby has never had a problem promoting youngsters, it’s just that coaches and fans don’t always agree about the timing.
Coetzee clearly believes the time is ripe to promote the talented Curwin Bosch.
The 20-year-old is undeniably exciting but there are signs that he’s been worn down by all his responsibilities in 2017.
He started with a bang for the Sharks, then experienced an average World Under-20 Championships with the Junior Springboks and lost his mojo by the end of Super Rugby.
Does he need to be part of this environment or could a pressure-free Currie Cup be more beneficial?
Bulls fullback Warrick Gelant is also a case in point to a lesser extent.
No rugby team has equally good defenders.
It’s a simple reality.
But the Springboks’ first-choice backline as a whole isn’t known it’s tackling prowess and it’s a risk when you’re playing sides like the All Blacks.
Only scrumhalf Ross Cronje, centre Jan Serfontein and perhaps fullback Andries Coetzee defend robustly consistently.
On the wings there’s especially a problem as even an off-colour France showed how easily wingers Courtnall Skosan, Raymond Rhule and Dillyn Leyds could be exploited out wide.
Disconcertingly, the other two centres in the squad – Damian de Allende and Francois Venter – also aren’t renowned for their defence.
It makes Ruan Combrinck’s omission even more mystifying.
Can national pride inspire the strugglers?
There’s an interesting sporting phenomenon that sometimes players who are out of form at domestic level find their feet again at international level.
Naturally it’s a risky strategy but given how players like Serfontein and Jesse Kriel prospered against France, some faith and a good team spirit can do wonders for a player.
Hopefully men like lock Lood de Jager and versatile prop Trevor Nyakane follow suit.
They can add huge value.