Meyer vague on selection

2013-06-05 00:00

WHILE there is a fair amount of confusion about the composition of the South African Test squad for Saturday, defensive coach John McFarland says the Springboks are a far more effective defensive unit than they were a year ago.

Head coach Heyneke Meyer has been playing typically vague when discussing his line-up for Saturday’s Test against Italy at King’s Park and injuries to six of his players have added to the general uncertainty.

Meyer will name his match squad of 22 today and he is waiting for a late fitness test on captain and centre Jean de Villiers (hamstring strain).

It seems unlikely that De Villiers, who has been heavily involved in Super Rugby, will be included and the Bulls pair of rookie Jan Serfontein and JJ Englebrecht could start on Saturday.

Meyer said that fatigue could also result in his resting a number of players. This could result in Pat Lambie, after the Sharks’ weekend bye, starting at flyhalf on his home ground on Saturday with Morné Steyn taking over at Nelspruit next Saturday.

“We have two quality flyhalves in Pat and Morné and they are both playing well. I have a lot of confidence in both of them and will rely on both of them going forward,” said Meyer.

“We do need to consider how much each player has played recently and that will be factored into the selection,” said Meyer.

“We have Ruan Pienaar back from overseas and he has played a lot of rugby for Ulster just recently and is at the end of a long season. I think he may benefit by having a rest.”

Zane Kirchner, over his finger injury, saw action for the Bulls against the Cheetahs on Saturday and he seems certain to return at fullback.

McFarland said that the opportunity to work with all the Super Rugby teams this year would benefit the Springboks.

“There’s been a great relationship with the defensive coaches around the country at all the franchises,” he said yesterday. “We actually spent a week with each union in February and March.

“There’s a great synergy between all of us and we speak weekly, so it’s really good. This year has been great in terms of sharing information.”

While Meyer will be forced to field a makeshift backline folowing the injuries to JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn and, possibly, De Villiers, there is a more settled look to the pack.

A certainty at loosehead is Sharks prop Beast Mtawarira, who missed the Springbok tour of the UK late last year because of a heart condition.

“Missing last year’s tour has made me really hungry to put on that Bok jersey again,” he said yesterday.

He described the Italian scrum as one of the best in the world and praised the technique of Italian tighthead Martin Castrogiovanni.

“Castrogiovanni is an experienced tighthead and they have a very good scrum. But we are not looking at one player, but at their whole scrum.

“Scrummaging is about the whole pack and it is definitely going to be a great challenge for us on Saturday.”

The Italians have enjoyed their best year in the Six Nations and finished fourth.

Spectators at King’s Park will be treated to a piece of rugby history with two Tests at the same venue.

Samoa face Scotland at 2.15 pm and the Springboks take on Italy at 5.15 pm.

A week later Samoa face Italy and South Africa play Scotland in Nelspruit. Loftus will host the play-offs (4th v 3rd; 2nd v 1st) on June 22. Tickets are R450 for adults and R160 for children.

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