Coetzee backs Cassiem inclusion

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee believes Uzair Cassiem is the ideal replacement for Warren Whiteley in the number eight position.

Cassiem will front up at the back of the scrum when the Springboks do battle with Argentina in the opening round of the Rugby Championship in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. Jaco Kriel and Siya Kolisi complete the loose trio.

There have been question marks over Cassiem's inclusion with some feeling Jean-Luc du Preez deserved to start following his impressive performances in the three-match June Test series against France.

But Coetzee has backed his choice saying that Cassiem is actually a very similar player to Whiteley and brings versatility with his all-round skill-set as well as providing balance to the XV.

"Our balance is right with Uzair Cassiem. He's played at No 8 for the Cheetahs," Coetzee told IOL.

"His lineout intelligence is absolutely wonderful. He's a great contester and very similar to Warren Whiteley. He plays in the wide channels as well on attack, so I'm very happy with him there."

In Cassiem, Jean-Luc and Dan du Preez, Coetzee has three number eights at his disposal and is delighted with this strength in depth.

"During the June internationals we only had one No 8 in our captain, Warren Whiteley. Now all of a sudden we have three," Coetzee said.

"Siya Kolisi played really well during the June series and so did Jaco Kriel in the last Test.

"Those players all went back to their franchises and were performing.

"When it gets to selection, I will always favor the experience. Jaco Kriel has gained a hell of a lot of experience in the absence of Warren Whiteley with the playoffs for the Lions."