South Africa have reacted to their humiliation at the hands of New Zealand by bringing back overseas-based flanker Francois Louw and gambling on utility back Dillyn Leyds for their Rugby Championship game against Australia.
Coach Allister Coetzee, promising a strong response in Bloemfontein to the Springboks’ record 57-0 loss to the All Blacks two weeks ago, was also able to recall regular halfback Ross Cronje after illness.
Coetzee hopes it will be enough to repair the Boks’ shattered confidence after their heaviest-ever defeat and stave off renewed calls for him to leave the job.
Louw comes in at flanker for Jean-Luc du Preez and Leyds on the right wing for Raymond Rhule, who was severely criticised for his defensive performance against the rampant All Blacks in Albany. Chiliboy Ralepelle, who served a two-year doping ban, was brought in on the bench and could play his first Test since 2013.
Rhule and playmaker Francois Hougaard, who started two weeks ago, have paid the biggest prices for the 57-0 drubbing by being left out of the 23 completely. Rhule was sent back to his domestic team as Coetzee was forced to act after the worst of a string of embarrassing results in his 18-month reign.
“We know we had a substandard game, but we have put it behind us and are busy with our turnaround strategy,” he said. “The players and management have had a meeting, and we all want to make things right this week.”
The team had now “buried Albany,” Coetzee said. “That defeat won’t define us. We’re not going to sweep it under the carpet, but so far we have won five out of seven this season, and at times we’ve played outstanding rugby. What is key now is our response.”