Surprising move by Meyer

2013-06-06 00:00

SPRINGBOK coach Heyneke Meyer has made a refreshing break from the past in boldly selecting the 23-year-old Willie le Roux at fullback for Saturday evening’s Test against Italy at King’s Park.

Le Roux and Bulls scrumhalf Jano Vermaak are the two new caps in the starting line-up for the opening day of the Incoming Tours Series. Scotland will meet Samoa in the Test curtain-raiser (2.15 pm).

It was widely expected that Meyer would name an old Bulls favourite, the reliable catch-and-kick expert Zane Kirchner, at fullback, but he has instead selected Le Roux, one of the more natural attacking players in Super Rugby.

Meyer, aware that he had taken most of the media by surprise and with his tongue firmly in his cheek, said at the team announcement yesterday that he had told Le Roux to “kick every ball that comes his way” on Saturday.

He said he had told playmaker Le Roux that he was not to feel inhibited by the importance of a Test match.

“I don’t want him to change anything from what he does at the Cheetahs. That means he will be given licence to play his natural game.”

Vermaak, who has recently been playing in the shadow of the out-of-touch Francois Hougaard in Pretoria, will start at scrumhalf with Ruan Pie­naar dropping to the bench.

The Springbok coach said that Pie-naar, his first-choice last year, needed a break after a long season of European rugby with Ulster, but added that he was also looking at fielding familiar pairings.

“I decided to stick with combinations and Jano and Morné Steyn are used to playing together [with the Bulls],” said Meyer.

Back in form Steyn returns at flyhalf with Pat Lambie, who has struggled to impose himself in a disjointed Sharks backline, dropping to the bench.

Meyer praised Steyn’s attitude, but said that Lambie would also get his chance during the June internationals.

“I have to give credit to Morné for the way he has fought back after many people wrote him off. He is a fighter. He practises every single day and he has been rewarded with this selection.

“But I also rate Pat Lambie highly and he will get his chance to play. We have two flyhalves and we will select on what we need from a particular game.”

There are three uncapped players on the bench in Cheetahs prop Trevor Nyakane, Bulls backrower Arno Botha and young centre Jan Serfontein, who was named player of the Junior World Cup last year.

Serfontein could still start on Saturday with Springbok captain Jean de Villiers (hamstring strain) still doubtful.

“We will monitor Jean at practice and see how he goes. If he shows any signs of the injury, we will not play him. That is why Jan Serfontein is on the bench.”

Springbok veterans, wing Bryan Habana, number eight Pierre Spies and prop Tendai Mtawarira, who all missed the tour last November because of fitness concerns, are back in the starting team.

Bjorn Basson, preferred to Lwazi Mvovo on the wing, will play his first Test since 2011.

Reserve hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle also returns after his injuries of last year, while Meyer said that the world-class Bismarck du Plessis, recovering from major knee surgery, would not be rushed back into Test rugby and will again play for Durban club Harlequins this weekend.

The Test kicks off at 5.15 pm and Frenchman Pascal Gauzère is the referee.


15 Willie le Roux, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Pierre Spies, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein.

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