Meyer can afford to experiment during Boks ‘easy draw’ in June

2012-12-12 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The Springboks must use the three weeks’ “Test window” in June next year as a window of opportunity to prepare themselves for more glamorous goals later in the season.

On paper, the Boks’ June agenda is a lot less taxing than either of their most traditional southern hemisphere rivals, New Zealand and Australia.

They must exploit this advantage with an eye on the Rugby Championship a bit further up the gruelling 2013 drag.

It was confirmed recently that the Boks’ initial obligations during the traditional June “gap” period in Super Rugby, will form part of a four- nation tournament also featuring Scotland, Italy and Samoa.

They play Italy at the first-time location of Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit on June 8, the Scots at Kings Park on June 15, and then a likely “final” — as they will be heavy tourney favourites — against one of the three other sides at Loftus on June 22, depending on the finishing pecking order.

With respect to the visiting trio, there is simply no comparison between South Africa’s June programme and the altogether stiffer itineraries laid out for fellow Sanzar giants, the All Blacks and Wallabies.

World champions the All Blacks will play home Tests on three successive Saturdays against France, who are unpredictable at the best of times and seemingly back on an encouraging upward curve.

With memories of the nail-biting (8-7) 2011 World Cup final still fresh in New Zealanders’ minds, the French will allow their hosts not to experiment or rotate players.

The Wallabies probably have it the toughest of the Sanzar powers in June (and for them early July, too) when they tackle the British and Irish Lions over three Tests.

If the Boks play their cards right, they may enter the second annual Rugby Championship, which also features the Pumas, fresher than either the All Blacks or Wallabies.

He may be maligned in some areas of his philosophy and game-plan but Meyer, to his credit, has always made it clear that he does not hand out Bok caps willy-nilly.

And while it may look as if this is what he did in his up-and-down first season in charge, the array of players he employed had more to do with a severe injury epidemic than to any knee-jerk reaction to adversity that was a hallmark, for instance, of the Rudolf Straeuli era, when all sorts of sub-standard journeymen got Bok call-ups.

What Meyer did do judiciously, especially on the end-of-year tour, was establish a pretty decent “pool” of Test-quality players in various positions.

So when the time comes to play the relative minnows visiting our shores in June, he is not going to lose much in either strength or credibility if he first assesses volumes of Super Rugby game time by his personnel and then rotates them accordingly.

Unlike earlier this year, when Meyer was tackling his maiden series against credible foes England and quite obviously desired best possible troops, the June 2013 international spell does afford him the opportunity to cocoon, to some extent, key figures with a view to their being especially fresh and hungry for the Rugby Championship.

That is a blessing the All Blacks and Wallabies may not have ...

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