Meyer: ‘Winning is non-negotiable’

2012-11-17 00:00

THE Scots believe that the Springboks’ confused tactical mindset could prove their undoing in the international clash at Murrayfield this afternoon.

Gregor Townsend, Scotland’s backline coach and former British Lions flyhalf, said this week that the Boks were vulnerable because they were under public pressure to change their familiar pattern and play more attractive rugby.

“They know that more is expected of them back home,” said Townsend, who played for the Sharks in 2004.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, with some conviction, says that it is victory rather than style that counts, adding that he is not looking to emulate the All Blacks who were 51-22 winners at Murrayfield a week ago.

“A win, even by one or two points, is what I want. We expect a physical and tough game, but winning is non-negotiable.”

The Hyde and Jekyll display in Dublin last Saturday — their limp rugby in the first half followed by their hard-nosed, brave approach in the second — and Meyer’s selections have added a schizophrenic feel to the current Springbok squad.

Meyer was all over the bar shouting about the Boks’ second-half showing in Dublin, but the Bok coach was less impressed with his players — and flyhalf Pat Lambie — in the first half when they attempted to play expansively behind a struggling pack.

The suggestion is that not too much will change tactically today, with the Boks seeking to apply pressure to secure territory and only then involving their outside backs.

The contradictory elements to Meyer’s team choices also suggest that the Boks are falling between two tactical stools.

He replaced his tactical kicking flyhalf Morné Steyn with first Johan Goosen and then Pat Lambie, and today he has a runner (Juan de Jongh) in for a basher (Jaco Taute) in midfield. But he has steadfastly refused to replace his fullback, the sound, reliable Zane Kirchner, with a playmaker, an effective counter-attacker, who could add a creative spark to a stodgy backline.

Meyer also lacks pace in the backrow to provide the necessary support out wide for a more expansive game.

Lambie, in welcoming Meyer’s support this week, made a significant and telling observation when he remarked that he wanted “more time in this [flyhalf] position, so I can grow and give Heyneke what he needs”.

Lambie, instead of playing the game that comes naturally, is now looking to adapt to Meyer’s needs, and that, surely, will involve more tactical kicking. De Jongh, in turn, is a runner and not a skilful distributor or an exponent of the crash-ball approach and he is at his best when running in space. But his chances at outside centre will be limited unless Lambie is given free rein to run the show.

It is this confusion which Townsend and the Scots want to exploit and they have reason to approach today’s game with some confidence. They troubled the All Blacks for long periods last week, scoring three tries against the world champions, sharing the possession stats and winning 57% of the territory.

The All Blacks were forced to make 114 tackles to the Scots’ 71, but the difference was that the New Zealanders were far more clinical in defence, missing only 11 tackles to the hosts’ 21.

The All Blacks also exploited space and a purple patch, with three tries in eight minutes, settled the contest. Still, the Scots, after watching the Boks battle in Dublin and score only one try, are convinced they have the ammunition to bring down the South Africans for a second successive time at Murrayfield.

Their feisty forwards would also welcome an arm wrestle with the Springboks. They are expecting the big runners, Willem Alberts and company, to keep charging at them down the narrow channels and they will be waiting.

If the Boks are to succeed, they will surely need to show some variety and not play into open Scottish arms.

Meyer said the breakdown battle would be critical and the Boks would have to find a counter to the Scots’ ability to slow down possession.

“They’ve got a never-say-die attitude and go hard at the ball. If you don’t get a quick recycle, they pressure you hard and quickly close down the space quickly,” he said.

The excellent Bok lineout will trouble the Scots, but the home team have powerful prop Euan Murray, who missed the Sunday Test against the All Blacks for religious reasons, back at tighthead and the scrums will be fiercely contested.

The Boks should have the firepower to overcome the spirited Scots, but they will have to be astute and accurate in their approach. Brawn alone will not be enough. But, really, is it not time that the Boks went out and played and won in some style?


Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Nick de Luca, 12 Matt Scott, 11 Tim Visser, 10 Greig Laidlaw, 9 Mike Blair, 8 David Denton, 7 Kelly Brown (captain), 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Jim Hamilton, 4 Richie Gray, 3 Euan Murray, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Ryan Grant

Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Geoff Cross, 19 Alastair Kellock, 20 John Barclay, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Ruaridh Jackson, 23 Peter Murchie

South Africa: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Gurthrö Steenkamp.

Replacements: 16. Schalk Brits, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 CJ van der Linde, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Marcell Coetzee, 21 Morné Steyn, 22 Jaco Taute, 23 Lwazi Mvovo.

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland). Kick-off: 4.30 pm (SA time).

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