Back into the past

2013-08-29 00:00

SPRINGBOK coach Heyneke Meyer has, predictably, taken one small step back into the past by including old Blue Bulls favourite Zane Kirchner in a 28-man touring squad for the Rugby Championship internationals against Australia and New Zealand next month.

Kirchner and Bulls hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle have, as expected, been added to the 26 players who travelled to Mendoza to play the Pumas at the weekend.

Both players left the Bulls after the Super Rugby season, with Kirchner signing for Leinster and Ralepelle joining French club Toulouse on two-year contracts. Their selection also means that just under one third of the Springbok tour party (nine players) are now contracted to overseas clubs.

The shaky defensive showing by the Springboks’ back three against the Pumas at the weekend is worrying Meyer and he is looking to the solid Kirchner to take over from the exciting but occasionally flashy Willie le Roux at fullback.

Kirchner is safe under the high ball and kicks well, but he offers little on the counter-attack. A perfect compromise, surely, would be to field the creative Pat Lambie in his old position at fullback and shift Le Roux to wing — where he spent most of his Super Rugby season with the Cheetahs — in place of the defensively fragile Bjorn Basson.

Meyer’s selection of Le Roux — in the last line of attack rather than defence — at the start of the international season ushered in a more expansive approach, though, of course, the Springboks were playing teams well down the world pecking order.

Their weekend problems under the high ball in Mendoza, and the stern, tight challenges awaiting them in Brisbane and Auckland, have resulted in a rethink and Meyer has now returned to his most reliable fullback.

Meyer says that the Wallabies and All Blacks are now making liberal use of the tactical boot while wet weather, particularly in Auckland, could also encourage more kicking in the Tests.

Ralepelle, the third hooker in the squad, missed the Argentinean tour because of a back injury and will have to pass a fitness test. A final call on his availability will be made by tomorrow.

The squad leave for Brisbane on Saturday afternoon for their Tests against Australia in Brisbane on September 7 and New Zealand in Auckland on September 14.

The five Boks playing club rugby in France — Morné Steyn (Stade Francais), Bryan Habana (Toulon), Juandré Kruger (Racing Metro), Gurthrö Steenkamp and Jano Vermaak (both Toulouse) — will only join the other 23 players in Brisbane on Monday.

“This will be two tough weeks on the road against two of the best sides in the world and as we saw last weekend against Argentina, we still have a lot of hard work to do,” Meyer said yesterday.

“The Springboks have never beaten Australia at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane and our last victory at Eden Park was in 1937. Australia may have lost their first two matches of the Rugby Championship, but they showed a marked improvement last weekend in Wellington,” said Meyer. “They are always tough opponents at home — the Springboks’ last victory over there was in 2009. We’ve only won three out of 18 matches in this competition in Australia so we will have to put in a lot of hard work in the next 10 days. We let ourselves down in certain areas of the game in Mendoza and will have to fix those if we are going to be competitive against Australia.”

The 28-man Springbok squad to Australia and New Zealand

Forwards (16): Lourens Adriaanse, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Juandré Kruger, Francois Louw, Tendai Mtawarira, Coenie Oosthuizen, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Gurthrö Steenkamp, Adriaan Strauss, Flip van der Merwe, Duane Vermeulen.

Backs (12): Bjorn Basson, Jean de Villiers (captain), JJ Engelbrecht, Bryan Habana, Zane Kirchner, Patrick Lambie, Willie le Roux, Ruan Pienaar, Jan Serfontein, Morné Steyn, Piet van Zyl, Jano Vermaak.


Age: 29

Position: Fullback

Franchise: Leinster (Ireland)

Bok caps: 24


Age: 26

Position: Hooker

Franchise: Toulouse (France)

Bok caps: 22.

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