All Blacks coach Ian Foster facing axe after latest Springboks loss
The world champion Springboks are offering the beleaguered All Blacks no respite as they recall one of their best and most brutal forwards to start at their traditional Ellis Park fortress on Sunday (kickoff 1.05am AEST).
Duane Vermeulen, a key cog in South Africa’s 2019 Rugby World Cup triumph, has been named at No.8 for the second match of the Rugby Championship as one of five changes to the starting line-up that outclassed New Zealand 26-10 in Mbombela.
“Duane has a massive presence on the field and there is no bigger game for him to make his comeback from injury than facing the All Blacks,” coach Jacques Nienaber said.
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Duane Vermeulen of South Africa celebrates the win in the 2019 Rugby World Cup final. (Getty)
The other changes see Jaden Hendrikse start at halfback for Faf de Klerk (concussion), Jesse Kriel replace Kurt-Lee Arendse (suspension) on the right wing, Bongi Mbonambi rotate in for outstanding hooker Malcolm Marx and Ox Nche getting the nod ahead of Trevor Nyakane at loosehead prop.
The All Blacks will name their team on Thursday and coach Ian Foster has concerns over backs Will Jordan (illness), Jordie Barrett (ankle) and Beauden Barrett (neck).
Reports in New Zealand have said Foster will be expected to resign should the All Blacks slump to a fourth straight loss.
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Ian Foster of the All Blacks. (Getty)
The country’s biggest newspaper, the NZ Herald, ran a fierce front page editorial in the wake of their latest loss, declaring “it’s time for change.”
“The Herald takes no pleasure in calling for him to go but Foster – a decent man who is out of his depth in a brutal business – must exit,” it read.
“It’s the manner of the defeats that really counts. Foster’s men are too easily put off their stride and too often cluttered and confused.”
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All Blacks captain Sam Cane is also under immense pressure to keep his job.
Crusaders coach Scott Robertson is the popular choice to replace Foster and he is likely to favour Sam Whitelock as his skipper if he got the job.
“You certainly feel it. It’s impossible not to and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t,” Cane said.
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“It’s always been part of being an All Black, the pressure, but without a doubt it’s extra pressure. You can look at it as a burden, or embrace it as an extra challenge. You can only try to use it as a positive – as funny as that sounds.”
The Springboks are seeking back to back wins over the All Blacks – now ranked just fifth in the world – for the first time since 2009.
SPRINGBOKS (15-1): Damian Willemse, Jesse Kriel, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handre Pollard, Jaden Hendrikse; Duane Vermeulen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (c), Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche
Reserves: Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Franco Mostert, Jasper Wiese, Kwagga Smith, Herschel Jantjies, Willie le Roux
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