Meyer still to decide who will captain Boks

2012-06-04 00:00

JUST five days short of the first Test against England at King’s Park, and new national coach Heyneke Meyer is still not sure who will captain the Springbok team.

Meyer named his 32-man Springbok squad on Saturday night and took everyone by surprise with his late decision to omit scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, his favourite to lead the team in the three Tests against England.

Meyer, who was prevented by an International Rugby Board ruling from recalling Victor Matfield as his captain, had turned to Du Preez, who has been playing club rugby in Japan, as his next choice.

But on Friday, following a meeting with Du Preez, the Bok coach did an about-turn and decided to exclude the veteran scrumhalf from his squad.

“I have a lot of respect for Fourie, but he knows my motto is ‘team first’. I had a few meetings with him and he said he wasn’t 100% sure he’s at his best, having not played for two-and-a-half months,” Meyer said yesterday.

“It was a hard decision to leave him out, but it shows the character of the man; that he told me to go with the youngsters if I felt he was a 50-50 selection. I will now chat to the senior players before naming my captain.”

With both Schalk Burger and Juan Smit out injured, the choice of captain would now appear to lie between Stormers captain Jean de Villiers and the Bulls’ Pierre Spies, while Francois Hougaard and Ruan Pienaar are expected to share the scrumhalf duties in the first Test.

Most of the criticism of the squad has centred on players omitted rather than those selected.

A major surprise was the exclusion of flank Heinrich Brüssow, widely acknowledged as one of the best open-siders in world rugby, and Meyer said the changing laws were to blame.

“That was a tough call because Heinrich is still up with the best open-side flanks in the game, but the game has changed. They’re being penalised more and hookers are stealing more ball now.

“If the laws change, which they will, he’ll definitely be in the mix. At the moment it’s up to him to adapt to the laws.”

Wing Gio Aplon, one of the best attackers in South African rugby, was also omitted, with his size and ability in handling the high ball clearly counting against him.

Meyer named nine uncapped players in the squad, while 15 of last year’s World Cup squad were included.

“I wanted to start the season with an experienced squad to face England, who are a good, tough side, but injuries have made this difficult,” said Meyer, who remains in confident mood.

“This is a team that can play winning Test rugby — brutal defence, big forwards running at each other, tactical kicking and direct rugby. This team can play to our typical South African strengths and the side that plays best to their pattern is normally the one that wins,” he added.

Meyer and the two Springbok selectors, Piet Jooste and Ian McIntosh, selected the squad on Friday. Two franchises, the Bulls with 13 of the squad members and the Sharks with 10, dominate selection. Ironically, they were both beaten on Saturday night, by the Stormers and the Lions, who between them have only five players in the squad of 32.

SPRINGBOK SQUAD

Backs: Zane Kirchner (Bulls), JP Pietersen (Sharks), JJ Engelbrecht (Bulls), Jean de Villiers (Stormers), Wynand Olivier (Bulls), Francois Steyn (Racing Metro/FRA), Bryan Habana (Stormers), Lwazi Mvovo (Sharks), Bjorn Basson (Bulls), Morné Steyn (Bulls), Patrick Lambie (Sharks), Elton Jantjies (Golden Lions), Francois Hougaard (Bulls), Jano Vermaak (Bulls), Ruan Pienaar (Ulster/IRL)

Forwards: Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Coenie Oosthuizen (Cheetahs), Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), Chiliboy Ralepelle (Bulls), Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs), Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), Werner Kruger (Bulls), Eben Etzebeth (Stormers), Flip van der Merwe (Bulls), Franco van der Merwe (Lions), Juandré Kruger (Bulls), Marcell Coetzee (Sharks), Willem Alberts (Sharks), Pierre Spies (Bulls), Ryan Kankowski (Sharks), Keegan Daniel (Sharks), Jacques Potgieter (Bulls).

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