Meyer takes the plunge, drops Steyn

2012-09-27 00:00

SPRINGBOK coach Heyneke Meyer has finally taken the plunge and replaced Blue Bulls favourite Morné Steyn with Cheetahs flyhalf Johan Goosen for Saturday evening’s Rugby Championship Test at Loftus Versfeld.

The inclusion of the exciting Goosen, a prodigiously talented 20-year-old Free Stater, is one of three changes to the starting line-up that faced New Zealand in Dunedin.

Meyer said the decision to drop Steyn “had been tough, a really big call”.

The Bok coach has also opted for the Western Province lock combination of Eben Etzebeth — back from suspension — and Andries Bekker ahead of the Bulls’ Juandre Kruger and Flip van der Merwe.

“No one can accuse me of bias after this,” a relaxed Meyer said with a smile. “Never have so few Bulls [two] started in a Test at Loftus.”

There could be a third change at centre with Frans Steyn, who aggravated his ankle injury at training yesterday, facing a fitness test tomorrow.

Jaco Taute will make his debut at outside centre if Frans Steyn withdraws. Captain Jean de Villiers will shift from 13 to inside centre with Juan de Jogh taking over from Taute on the bench.

There is a young and exciting look to the team named by Meyer, with six of the 22 players aged 21 or younger. They are Goosen, Taute, Etzebeth, Marcell Coetzee, Pat Lambie and Elton Jantjies.

Taute has played most of his senior rugby at fullback, but Meyer said he was impressed with the strong, fast Lions player when he turned out at outside centre during the Super Rugby competition.

“He would have been in my squad right from the start but for injury, and that is why he has leap-frogged Juan de Jongh into this squad.”

Meyer said he would switch the experienced De Villiers to inside centre if Frans Steyn withdrew “because I don’t want two new players [Goosen and Taute] starting alongside one another in a big Test match”.

There are four changes to the bench, with prop Coenie Oosthuizen, lock Flip van der Merwe, flyhalf Elton Jantjies and Taute included.

And the fact that Meyer sees Taute as a centre rather than a fullback has saved Pat Lambie’s position on the bench.

“I’ve maintained from the outset that I won’t rush Johan Goosen, but I feel he is now ready to start a Test for South Africa and I’m excited to see what he can bring,” said Meyer at yesterday’s briefing.

But the patchy form of Morné Steyn in Dunedin earlier this month had opened the door to change.

“Morné, in the last four seasons, has played close to 140 matches at Test, Super Rugby and Currie Cup level and probably deserves a break.

“But this also provides a great opportunity for Johan, a player I rate very highly.”

Meyer said the rugby public should not feel sorry for Morné Steyn.

“He is a real professional, a quality player and a fighter,” he said.

“He accepted my decision to drop him graciously and he will bounce back. I’m doing what is in the best interest of the team and Morné.”

He said he had considered including Steyn on the bench, but said it would be unfair.

“It isn’t going to help him to bring him on with 20 minutes and he ends up having to kick the game-winning or game-losing goal. I either back him 100% or not. That’s the decision I had to take in the interests of Morné and the team,” Meyer said.

The Springbok coach dismissed suggestions that Goosen would have to stick to a strict and conservative game plan.

“He has the freedom to play the situation as he sees it.

“This is not Currie Cup rugby where you have space and time, but he must go out and express himself. That’s why I picked him.

“But the public must also be realistic. You can’t expect a 20-year-old to win the game on his own.”

Meyer’s selection for this Test, the creativity added to the backline and the suggestion that the Boks will be more positive on attack, will be warmly received around the country.

Now, if only he had replaced Zane Kirchner with Pat Lambie, we would all be smiling.

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