‘No choice but to gamble’

2012-04-26 00:00

NEW Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said yesterday that he could be forced to turn to youth rather than rely on experience in selecting his side for the Test matches against England in June.

Meyer, speaking during his four-day camp in Pretoria yesterday, said that injury and the non-availability of several of his favourite players would force him to gamble on emerging players rather than selecting those already tried and tested at the highest level. Players from the Sharks and Bulls, who have a Super Rugby bye this weekend, are at the camp and even among them there are a host of walking wounded.

Meyer conceded he was revising his thinking on the matter of selection.

“A lot has changed since I started thinking about a possible team. I said I would give everyone a fair chance, but I thought it would be an experienced side just to get us going and get the continuity because the guys know a lot of the stuff and they would lead the youngsters.”

Meyer said he would now have to select a younger team because a number of players, including potential captains Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and Jean de Villiers, were sidelined by injury.

In addition, overseas-based centre Jaque Fourie has cut his ties with the Springboks for the next two years while scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, who is playing his rugby in Japan, is reportedly reluctant to take over the Test captaincy, though Meyer is likely to persuade him to don the No. 9 jersey.

Faced with this shortage of leadership material, and with lineout specialist Andries Bekker nursing a back injury, Meyer has attempted to persuade veteran lock Victor Matfield to quit his job as a commentator and return to lead the Boks against England.

This is a desperate measure, but Meyer has suddenly found himself in a desperate position, acutely aware that defeat to England on home soil would place him under intense pressure at the very start of his new career.

Compounding his second-row problems was the decision of injury-plagued Test lock Alistair Hargreaves to join Saracens in London though the former South African age group captain has been out in the cold in Durban this year. It is significant, however, that Meyer this week invited the 19-year Pieter Steph du Toit, who made his Super Rugby debut off the bench for the Sharks at the weekend, to join his training squad in Pretoria.

Meyer is hoping that inside centre Frans Steyn will return to South Africa for the June series and he is spoilt for choice at flyhalf (Morné Steyn, Pat Lambie, Elton Jantjies and Johan Goosen). But he will be concerned about the long list of injuries to blindside flanks and the shortage of quality No. 5 locks — if Bekker continues to battle with his fitness and Matfield opts for the comfort of his armchair.

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