Bok line-up expected to stay much the same

2013-08-13 00:00

CAPE TOWN — One necessary change and one tactical alteration, that is perhaps the limit to which coach Heyneke Meyer will tinker with his Springbok side for their opening Rugby Championship match against Argentina at FNB Stadium on Saturday at 5 pm.

Meyer generally favours continuity and rewards players for jobs well done the last time around. If he is to stay true to that philosophy then the starting line up that saw off Samoa impressively 56-23 in the June Test window period will largely remain intact when revealed tomorrow.

Meyer may opt to fast-track Duane Vermeulen back to the No 8 slot, even given that he is decidedly ring rusty after injury, in place of stalwart Pierre Spies.

Spies had been very disappointing during June until he was forced off at half time against Samoa at Loftus and is ruled out for months.

The only other change could involve Juandré Kruger resuming his pretty regular 2012 partnership in the second row with Eben Etzebeth, and Flip van der Merwe downscaling back to the bench.

The last-named player was supposedly included alongside Etzebeth as a horses-for-courses pick to counter the uniquely robust threat of the Samoans — both are really No 4 locks in playing style, although the alliance worked surprisingly well.

While specialist middle line-out jumper Kruger would restore balance to the combo on paper, it is not out of the question either that Van der Merwe will retain his starting place — the extra bulk he provides could come in useful at scrum-time against the Pumas’ famous “bajada”.

Trying to predict what is going on in the mind of the Bok coach is no exact science: Meyer may have decided that the slightly different needs of the four-nation southern hemisphere competition require more profoundly altered personnel to enhance South Africa’s challenge.

The Willie le Roux fans may be on tenterhooks that he makes way at fullback for the conservative game-style of Zane Kirchner.

In that case, the Bok backline may well be a carbon copy of the one that did duty in the up-tempo victory over Samoa, with the following players (from 15 to nine in descending order) chosen: Willie le Roux, Bryan Habana, JJ Engelbrecht, Jean de Villiers (capt), Bjorn Basson, Morné Steyn, Ruan Pienaar.

The player on thinnest ice would be Pienaar at scrumhalf as he was poor against Scotland and relatively improved against Samoa.

Meyer has three No 9s to pick from in his 30-strong extended squad, with Jano Vermaak and seasoned Fourie du Preez also in contention.

Du Preez could play off the bench on Saturday, with either Pienaar or Vermaak starting and then Meyer taking a look at Du Preez some time in the second half.

The pack choice should be more straightforward, even given the Van der Merwe/Kruger conundrum for the No 5 shirt.

While Vermeulen is likely to be undercooked and may be expected to only provide some 50-60 minutes on Saturday, the coach will be keen to blend him anew into a loose-forward combination also featuring flankers Francois Louw and Willem Alberts.

Either Siya Kolisi or Marcell Coet­zee could provide fresh legs on the side of the scrum with Alberts switching to eight for the remainder of the fixture.

With hooker Bismarck du Plessis champing at the bit to regain his first-choice status in that position, an upset recall to the run-on XV cannot be entirely ruled out.

A wiser forecast, however, is that he will have to wait for the admirable Adriaan Strauss to turn in a real stinker before the Sharks favourite gets a fresh look-in for the No 2 jersey.

— Sport24.

A possible Bok pack: Tendai Mtawarira, Adriaan Strauss, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Juandré Kruger (or Flip van der Merwe), Francois Louw, Willem Alberts, Duane Vermeulen.

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