Heyneke prays for dry Newlands

Heyneke Meyer (Gallo Images)
Heyneke Meyer (Gallo Images)

Cape Town – Even as he spoke at Wednesday’s press conference here, a stiff north-wester – so often the city’s rain-preceding wind – howled and dark clouds engulfed Table Mountain, not from the end that characterises the trademark lilywhite summer “tablecloth”.

Yet a notably recurring theme from Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer was his wish for a precipitation-free Castle Rugby Championship Test match against the Wallabies at Newlands on Saturday (17:05 kickoff).

Perhaps aided by there being few shocks in his match-day mix, he kept coming back to the topic ... and it seems his wish may well be granted as the “bark” of any frontal activity in the lead-up looks likely to be worse than its bite: sunny, cool conditions with a brisk spring south-easter are predicted for the clash at this stage.

It would make a welcome change from three of the last four Bok outings in the competition – Argentina at Loftus, and both away clashes with Australia and New Zealand – where conditions have affected fluidity and sometimes created lotto-like hallmarks.

Not normally one for flamboyant words, Meyer candidly conceded, too, that some of the Bok strategic kicking on those challenging occasions had been “useless”. 

“We haven’t played on a dry pitch for quite some time so we really want to show what we can do on attack,” he enthused. “All three games (mentioned) were in the wet and we couldn’t really move the ball around.

“We want to attack and Australia like to attack as well so it could be a really great game to watch. If there’s quick ball available to both sides it could be a cracker; Australia have also improved a lot and I’m very excited about what this match (might offer).

“We still have to adapt (properly) to playing in wet conditions. The one thing that came out in these two (narrowly lost Championship games in Australasia) was that I truly believe if we want to win the World Cup in the UK next year we must learn to play in wet conditions.

“I’ve already made plans that when we have our training camp either in George or Mossel Bay we will have to lay on two fields – one totally wet. It was an eye-opener that we came so close in both games, but we didn’t execute, which was frustrating especially against New Zealand.

“We need to get our mauls going in such conditions, and keep the ball better in hand. We didn’t respect the ball.

“If we kick – and believe it or not we don’t really want to kick – we have to make (those kicks) contestable. The All Blacks kicked more than us but more (effectively).”

If Meyer does get the dry day on Saturday he so desires, he hopes the Boks will be able to build on some of the enterprising play he believes they have been exhibiting more in home matches – he acknowledged that many of their tougher away matches have turned into “arm wrestles”.

He praised the strides being made by Oupa Mohoje, the Cheetahs blind-sider who earns an intriguing maiden start against Australia.

Meyer says he is “in the mould of (injured) Willem Alberts” as a ball-carrier, and a firm pitch and running game might bring out the best in his speed for a big man.

Indeed, Mohoje could be a surprise element against the Wallabies, given that little will have been seen of him by the visiting side; Mohoje has not yet played even an overseas Super Rugby match yet.

The coach did caution, nevertheless, that Mohoje is notably short of game-time in recent months and that Japan-based, 71-cap stalwart Schalk Burger – who has apparently been earning rave reviews in his new environment and is in tip-top shape conditioning-wise – was likely to see service off the bench for around half an hour in the second half.

Part of the motivation for Burger leapfrogging Warren Whiteley to a place among the subs, Meyer said, was that he covered all three loose forward positions.

 *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

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