Johannesburg - Expecting a battle royal at the breakdowns against the All Blacks, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer felt it was the ideal opportunity to give Heinrich Brussow his first start in four years in Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash.
Injuries to stalwart lock Victor Matfield and Marcell Coetzee forced the Bok mentor’s hand but also allowed Meyer to experiment with his combinations.
Lood de Jager’s performance as a replacement for Matfield in South Africa’s defeat to the Wallabies in Brisbane earned him a starting berth while Brussow will slot in at openside flank with Francois Louw shifting to the blindside.
“It is great to have Heinrich back and it just shows that you should never give up on your dreams,” Meyer said.
“What he did well was to continuously ask where he stood and we’ve always been honest with each other.
“I believe this is a good Test to give him a chance, he has a good record against the All Blacks, and we need every little bit of luck against them.”
The Springboks traditionally have at least one big carrier among the loose forwards and Meyer’s selection of two fetchers is certainly a shift in the thinking for the national side.
The dangers the All Blacks posed at the breakdown, a lack of fit ball carriers up for selection, and Brussow’s ball scavenging abilities all precipitated his promotion.
“We pride ourselves in having one or two big ball carriers getting over the advantage line, get momentum, and also stop momentum on defence,” Meyer said.
“In this case we don’t have one standing at the moment and that is why I felt we need to change the game plan and have a different approach.
“We have two opensiders and the game is won and lost at the breakdowns playing the All Blacks, if they get quick ball they are very difficult to stop.”
Meyer made eight changes to the match-day 23 with lock Flip van der Merwe among the changes to the bench.
Brussow’s inclusion came as somewhat of a surprise after he had been out in the cold for much of Meyer’s tenure as Bok coach.
Considered as one of the finest ball fetchers in world rugby, Brussow last featured for the Springboks in the quarter-final sof the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
“I have a lot of respect for Heinrich, there was a lot of speculation in the media that there was bad blood between us but that is not true,” Meyer said.
“I told him exactly what he needed to work on to get back into the fold and this year he really played some great rugby coming back from Japan.
“He worked on his speed and he was awesome in Super Rugby, unfortunately he got injured and he’s playing against one of the best opensiders in the world in Richie McCaw.”
Prop Vincent Koch is set to make his Bok debut with his inclusion on the bench along with Cornal Hendricks, Trevor Nyakane, Van der Merwe and Warren Whiteley.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Schalk Burger (captain), 7 Francois Louw, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Vincent Koch, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Warren Whiteley, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Cornal Hendricks