Meyer has change of heart, might include Gio Aplon

2012-06-20 00:00

SPRINGBOK coach Heyneke Meyer has had a change of heart and seems certain to include the slightly-built but exciting Gio Aplon at fullback in Saturday’s third and final Test against England in Port Elizabeth.

Aplon’s size and his occasional problems in coping with the high ball counted against him in selection for the first two Tests and he failed to even make the Bok reserve bench.

But with the Test series done and dusted, and the Springboks 2-0 up, Meyer is likely to be more inventive in selection and include Aplon as a replacement for the injured Pat Lambie.

A final decision on the fitness of Lambie and flank Willem Alberts will be made today but it seems both will miss Saturday’s Test, and Aplon and Bulls flank Jacques Potgieter have been training in their places.

Stormers fullback Joe Pietersen is expected to be on the bench after joining the squad on Monday.

Potgieter (26), at 115 kg, is the nearest thing to Alberts in the Bok squad and he has shown good form for the Bulls this season. The backrow forward moved from Port Elizabeth to Pretoria this year, but he previously had two years with the Sharks in 2008-9 and played Vodacom Cup rugby while in Durban.

Lock Juandré Kruger has been medically cleared after being stretchered off with a neck injury at Ellis Park, and he practised enthusiastically with the Boks in front of 4 000 rugby-starved PE supporters.

With the betrothed Frans Steyn unavailable after double-dating for Saturday, Wynand Olivier will play at inside centre.

He and the coaching staff were yesterday answering the many sceptics who do not believe the Bulls centre is of international standard.

“It’s great to be back,” said Olivier yesterday.

“I wouldn’t say to prove a point, but maybe I have a point to prove to myself.”

While Meyer spoke of the value of Olivier’s experience, the Springboks’ defence coach John McFarland said that the centre had made more tackles than any other threequarter after replacing the injured Lambie during the Ellis Park Test.

The England backs will use the bulky Manu Tuilagi to target the inside channel but Olivier is confident he can meet the challenge of stopping the Samoan. “I’m more relaxed and focused on what I need to do,” he said.

THE LIKELY SPRINGBOKS STARTING LINE-UP

Gio Aplon, JP Pietersen, Jean de Villiers (capt), Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies, Jacques Potgieter, Marcell Coetzee, Juandre Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira.

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