Ross Roche

By Ross Roche

Senior sports writer

Mzwandile Stick confident new Bok combinations will fire at Loftus

The Wallabies backline would be a particular threat, according to the Bok assistant coach, and a big challenge that the Boks would have to overcome.

The Springboks believe that the new combinations in their match 23 will be firing on all cylinders when they take on the Wallabies in the opening game of the Rugby Championship at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday evening.

A mixed team of experienced heads and exciting fringe players was named earlier in the week to front up against the Aussies and they will hope to gel from the first minute.

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Bok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick admitted at a captains’ press conference on Friday afternoon that the management team had no worries about some of the new partnerships in the side.

Centres Andre Esterhuizen and Lukhanyo Am, halfbacks Cobus Reinach and Manie Libbok, and locks Jean Kleyn and Marvin Orie, will all be featuring together for the first time, while flank Marco van Staden slots into an experienced loose trio.

‘Proven themselves’

“We are in the fortunate position that we have been able to work with these players for the past three weeks. Other than Jean Kleyn the majority of these players have been with us for the past couple of years,” explained Stick.

“Some of them have been tested in and out (of the squad). Some of them have been outside the camp and proven themselves to come back into the side … guys like Marco van Staden, I am very happy that he is getting an opportunity.

“With Duane (Vermeulen) and Pieter-Steph (du Toit), Marco gets a chance to play with the best around him.”

Kleyn and Orie

Stick continued: “When it comes to the combination of Jean Kleyn and Marvin Orie it is a case of we know what they can do, so we don’t have any concern with their partnership.

“What they have done over the past three weeks in our squad has been great. They really complement each other with the way they play the game. Marvin is very smart when it comes to his lineouts and then next to him you have a very tough guy who doesn’t stop grinding on the field.”

The Wallabies will also be fielding a side with a number of new combinations, as they have four debutants in their match 23 as well as a number of experienced senior players to back them up.

This is important for both teams in a World Cup year, as they look to build momentum towards the showpiece event.

“I like the fact that Eddie (Jones) is giving some players an opportunity in the game. Yes we want to win the game, we want to win the championship, but at the end of the day it’s also a World Cup year, so you don’t want to play the same 23 players game in and game out,” said Stick.

“We have to give all the players in our squad a fair opportunity to prove that they have what it takes to go and play in the World Cup, which is what I see on their side and we have massive respect for that.”

Threatening backline

The Wallabies backline would be a particular threat, according to Stick, and a big challenge that the Boks will have to overcome on the day.

“They have a very powerful backline, with the experience of Nic White and Quade Cooper at nine and 10, we know that they are going to be key for the game,” said Stick.

“They have Eddie (Jones) and we know how he is as a coach. He will go to dark places to bring the best out of his players.

“So we are well aware that this is not going to be a light game for both teams. With the experience they have in that team, if we are not at our best we are going to have a long day.”