Meyer adds verve and excitement to Bok team with five changes

2012-09-06 00:00

COACH Heyneke Meyer, in making five changes to his starting line-up, has added some verve and excitement to his Springbok team for Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash with the Wallabies in Perth.

Two of Meyer’s changes are positional with the energetic Francois Hougaard switching to wing to accommodate Ruan Pienaar at scrumhalf and Willem Alberts shifting to flank to open number eight to new cap Duane Vermeulen.

The three players who started against the Pumas in Mendoza, but have been omitted for Saturday’s Test are wing Lwazi Mvovo, lock Andries Bekker and flank Jacques Potgieter.

Mvovo, unlucky to be dropped after having few attacking chances against the Pumas, is at least still on the bench while Bekker and Potgieter have been dumped from the match 22.

“Ruan brings a more tactical approach to scrumhalf while I’ve always been impressed with Francois at wing,” said Meyer in Perth yesterday.

Potgieter was brave, but limited against Argentina in Mendoza, but the inclusion of Vermeulen, if he can live up to the rave reviews he receives in Cape Town, provides some balance to the backrow where he joins Sharks flanks Alberts and Marcell Coetzee.

“We’ve decided to put Duane straight into the starting team because he is a classic number eight, a position we’ve lacked in since Pierre Spies got injured and Ryan Kankowski moved to Japan.

“I’ve always admired the way Duane plays rugby and he’s fitted in very well the past week. He would’ve been a Springbok years ago if it had not been for injuries and it’s great to finally see him selected,” said Meyer.

The Boks will miss the lineout skills of Bekker but, as we saw in Mendoza, the towering lock is less effective, or too often lurks in the midfield, when the going gets tough.

Meyer has recalled Juandré Kruger in his place.

“At lock we’ve decided to go for Juandré as he plays more to the ball.

“He and Eben [Etzebeth] played well as a combination in the June Tests against England.”

Meyer has also juggled his bench, including another potential new cap in the 20-year-old Free State flyhalf Johan Goosen and the Bath-based flank Francois Louw.

“By including Francois [Louw] on the bench, we have a specialist opensider, but also a versatile loose forward that brings a bit more balance to our backrow mix.”

Goosen is a prodigiously talented young flyhalf, one able to either kick the ball vast distances or run with it, but he has seen less than an hour of action after a four-month injury break and there are concerns that he is being rushed into the big time.

Meyer was enthusiastic about the young Goosen though Morné Steyn, his current flyhalf, will hardly see his comments as a vote of confidence.

“Johan, in my mind, can become one of the great flyhalves in world rugby. I’ve been very impressed with his work ethic and attitude since he joined the squad last Thursday in Johannesburg and we will keep on managing him carefully over the next few weeks.”

Adriaan Strauss has been included at hooker after coming through a first set of fitness tests on his injured knee.

He will be given until tomorrow to prove his match readiness. Tiaan Liebenberg would take over in the starting line-up if he withdraws with Sharks hooker Craig Burden joining the bench.

The Boks lost their last game against the Wallabies in the quarter-final of the Rugby World Cup last year and there are only four survivors from the starting line-up that dark day — Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Morné Steyn and Jannie du Plessis.

This Springbok team boasts a total of 451 Test caps and a massive proportion of them (339) are in the backline. The forwards have a total of 112 caps — just one more than the total of Springbok caps won by former captain John Smit.

Meyer said that Saturday’s Test will provide a major test of their defensive capabilities.

“We know the Wallabies will take the ball wide and play expansively so we will have to defend strongly,” he said.

This new Bok team will be generally well-received by those seeking a more creative approach but perhaps Meyer missed another trick in sticking to Zane Kirchner at fullback rather than including playmaker Pat Lambie.

The Test kicks off at 12.35 pm on Saturday.

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