Springbok coach Allister Coetzee will finally show his cards on Thursday when he announces his starting line-up for this weekend’s first French Test at Loftus.
While he has already confirmed Warren Whiteley as his captain, it will be crucial which players will surround the Lions eighthman in his debut Test as skipper.
There could be as many as seven Lions named in the starting line-up, with the most crucial probably being flanker Jaco Kriel Coetzee likely to reward local-based players confined to an impact role, while the Stormers lock Pieter-Steph du Toit could join him on the replacements bench.
SA Rugby’s Player-of-the-Year in 2015, Lood de Jager, could be left out of the match 23 altogether.
In the backline, Andries Coetzee looks likely to start at fullback, with wings Courtnall Skosan and Dillyn Leyds completing the back three combo, with Raymond Rhule also in the mix.
Coetzee could settle for provincial combinations in midfield and halfback, with the Bulls’ Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel starting as centres, while flyhalf Elton Jantjies will be more at home with Ross Cronje as his scrumhalf.
In the front row Beast Mtawarira, Malcolm Marx and Frans Malherbe trained together with the tight five completed by Franco Mostert and Eben Etzebeth.
In the back row Whiteley could welcome Siya Kolisi and Oupa Mohoje as his loose trio partners, which will signal a completely locally based starting outfit.
The three overseas players, prop Steven Kitshoff, scrumhalf Francois Hougaard and utility back Frans Steyn might only be included on the bench.
Steyn will cover flyhalf and fullback and if necessary centre as well, and it is believed that if Steyn has to start, the Boks could be in trouble at some stage if Jantjies, as the only recognised No 10, picks up an early injury.
Possible Springbok XV: Andries Coetzee, Dillyn Leyds, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein, Courtnall Skosan, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje, Warren Whiteley (c), Oupa Mohoje, Siya Kolisi, Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx, Beast Mtawarira.