Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer decided to keep continuity for South Africa’s final Rugby World Cup Pool B match.
The Springboks face the United States at London’s Olympic Stadium on Wednesday.
The starting line-up shows only 2 changes from the team that recorded a 34 / 16 victory over Scotland in Newcastle last Saturday.
As a result Frans Malherbe will start his 1st match of the season for South Africa, while Rudy Paige could make his Test debut off the bench against the United States.
Malherbe comes in at tighthead prop for Jannie du Plessis, in the only change to the pack.
The backline shows only 1 personnel change as well – at wing, where Lwazi Mvovo takes over from JP Pietersen, with Bryan Habana moving over to the right wing.
Pietersen was not considered this week due to injury, while a decision was taken to give Du Plessis and Victor Matfield time to get over some niggles due to the short turn-around after the Scotland match.
Joining Paige on the bench is Morné Steyn, who both could get their 1st taste of Rugby World Cup action this year.
Schalk Brits and Coenie Oosthuizen are also back amongst the replacements this week.
South Africa’s Springboks have restored a semblance of order and normality again, after the shock loss in Round 1 against Japan, which was followed up by good wins over Samoa and Scotland on the weekend.
The Springboks now top their Rugby World Cup Pool (Pool B), leading Scotland by 1 Log Point (11 points to 10), after the same amount of games and with only 1 Round of Pool stage games left.
Japan is not out of the running in the Pool yet, a further 2 points adrift, but with their only remaining game the one against the USA Eagles and one they could well win as well.
The focus for the Springboks now shift to the game against the USA Eagles on Wednesday evening.
While there has been praise and some redemption for the Springboks and Heyneke Meyer, the job is not yet done.
The only injury concern is that of JP Pietersen, who suffered a knee injury on the weekend against Scotland.
There has been a lot of praise heaped on Handré Pollard for his performance against Scotland, playing next to the captain and general of the day, Fourie du Preez.
Lood de Jager, who was named Man Of The Match against Scotland deserves all the plaudits he is currently getting but he remains focussed and humble in the process, declaring that he’ll defend his country with everything he’s got.
In the meantime, speculation has been rife and a lot of opinion has been bandied about regarding the team selection for the game against USA on Wednesday and one of the 1st questions asked is if Rudy Paige will be drafted into the match-day 23 for the USA clash. Only 2 players have not had any game time yet, Paige and Morné Steyn.
It is said that time is a great healer, but in Heyneke Meyer’s case it will also be a great revealer.
The Springbok coach has decided to delay his team announcement by 7 hours on Wednesday as he needs more time to resolve the all-important matter of who will wear the captain’s armband in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup clash against Pool B pace-setters Scotland at St James’ Park, Newcastle.
Instead of an 11:00 SA Time (10:00 UK Time) announcement, Meyer will now name his matchday-23 at 19:00 SA Time (18:00 UK Time) on Wednesday evening.
At the heart of the delay is a plethora of injuries which have a direct bearing on the captaincy appointment. Victor Matfield is the obvious choice to replace the injured Jean de Villiers as the captain at world rugby’s showpiece, but the 38-year-old lock has a hamstring strain which he suffered in the 2nd half against Samoa last weekend.
As a result of the lengthy injury list, the Springboks forfeited Monday’s training session as several players were nursing an assortment of niggles. Matfield will have to prove his fitness at Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s training before the Springboks’ medical staff make a call on his availability.
The Springboks were given a vibrant and rousing reception at their official Rugby World Cup Welcoming Ceremony, held at the iconic Winter Gardens in Eastbourne on Sunday afternoon.
Hundreds of rugby fans lined the street and packed the venue as the Springboks, led out by coach Heyneke Meyer, entered the theatre to the sounds of well-known British hard rock band Led Zeppelin.
All the players received their Rugby World Cup caps and participation medals, while the team management were also awarded medals.
The Springboks and gathered crowd were addressed by Mr Oregan Hoskins, President of the South African Rugby Union and Deputy President of World Rugby, Mr Ian Richie, CEO of the Rugby Football Union and the Worshipful the Mayor of Eastbourne, Councillor Janet Coles.
Meyer and Springbok captain Jean de Villiers spoke on behalf of the team and thanked all the Springboks’ bases for the duration of the tournament for their efforts, as well as the throngs of fans who made the team feel welcome in England.
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers stole the show. Master statesman and ambassador that he is, that had the crowd baying for more as he opened by turning his back on the audience to take a crowd selfie, encouraging them to participate in the background and gave a fabulous speech to underline his worth to the team off the field.
Mastery of scrums, line drives and the breakdown will win the Rugby World Cup, South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer said after his 31-man squad arrived in England for the tournament on Saturday.
“These are 3 areas that will determine the outcome of the tournament and we have spent a lot of time working on them,” Meyer said.
Meyer also said winning the Rugby World Cup, which South Africa achieved in 1995 and 2007, would require playing “7 cup finals” over the next 2 months.
“All the opponents will be difficult and you have to approach each game as if it were a final. The challenge is to play 7 great games in a row.”
The Springboks, who are based on the South Coast of England in the little hamlet of Eastbourne, start their campaign next Saturday against Japan at Brighton in Pool B, with the coach suggesting it was an opportunity to give game time to players who have been working their way back to fitness after injury.
With the entire Springbok squad expected to be fit before the start of the Rugby World Cup, team doctor Craig Roberts says the next challenge is to get the players match-fit.
Roberts gave an update on the injury situation in the Springbok camp with a bout of ‘flu keeping captain Jean de Villiers and Bryan Habana sidelined.
“At this stage everyone will be available for that 1st game and it is our plan to have 31 fit players and up to the coach to select the 23 for that 1st game,” Roberts said in Johannesburg on Monday.
“It’s more illness at this stage than injury, but I am happy with our progress and we are still 2 weeks away from that 1st game and we are getting the guys into full-on training so I am happy.”
Eben Etzebeth had a light calf strain, but the towering lock is expected to be fit for selection for the Springboks’ opening Rugby World Cup match against Japan in Brighton on 19 September.
Long-term injury layoffs Duane Vermeulen, Fourie du Preez and Francois Louw all took part in sessions on Monday.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Tuesday applauded the work done by the national team’s medical, strength and conditioning staff to get the squad fit and ready for the Rugby World Cup.
Each member of the 31-man squad took part in most of the field sessions on Monday and Tuesday in Durban, including Duane Vermeulen, Jean de Villiers, Jannie du Plessis, Fourie du Preez and Francois Louw.
The training camp in Durban concludes on Wednesday and the players and management will get together again in Johannesburg on Sunday afternoon. The squad departs for England on Friday 11 September.
“We’re confident that all of the players will be fit to be considered for selection for our opening match against Japan in Brighton on 19 September,” said Meyer.
With the Springbok Rugby World Cup Squad having been announced on Friday at 18:00 SA Time, this weekend has slowly seen the emergence of the reaction to it.
The general reaction, mine included, is that some players should not be there and some should… but I think it’s fair to say that almost everybody agrees on 85% PLUS of the selected players… call them the “Non-Contestables”, if you will.
It is those final 7 or 8 players which the bickering has featured about as well as the undoubted support for or against the national coach, Heyneke Meyer.
From Government circles, the Minister of Sport & Recreation, Fikile Mbalula, has praised the team and announced that the South African Rugby Union (SARU) is on track with their transformation goals.
To counter this, some obscure little piddly widdly Political Party, the Agency for New Agenda Party…. yeah right, who the hell are they, you are also asking, like me.. have brought a High Court Application in the North Gauteng High Court, seeking an urgent order to compel SARU and the Sports Department officials to surrender their passports so they cannot travel.
Heyneke Meyer has had to fend off those who have questioned some of his selections too, mainly the selection of Rudy Paige at scrumhalf, the only uncapped Springbok in the squad and he has had to give reasons for the specific selection.
In recent weeks, the previous Springbok coach, Peter de Villiers, has also come out with some scathing critisism against Heyneke Meyer, and De Villiers has gone so far as to join forces with Labour Movement, Cosatu, to get his agenda and points accross as well as to form the backbone of a pressure group for the inclusion of more players of colour. Heyneke Meyer has retorted with a very simple yet eloquent reply, by praising Peter de Villiers.
Lastly, with fears regarding the fitness of a number of previously injured and rehabilitating players included in the squad, most notably Fourie du Preez, Jean de Villiers, Duane Vermeulen, Jannie du Plessis and Coenie Oosthuizen, coach Meyer now assures us that all 31 players will be ready to play when the tournament starts on 18 September.
So here goes, let’s look at all these aspects in more depth:
The South African Springboks squad, to take on the world’s best in England, at the 2015 Rugby World Cup was officially announced at 18:00 SA Time (16:00 GMT), live on SuperSport 1 on TV in South Africa.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is on a hiding to nothing, no matter which squad he would have selected, whether it be from lobbyists saying that there are not enough players of colour in the side OR whether he is accused of player bias OR choosing old favourites… OR not choosing players on merit.
I urge everybody to accept his selection prerogatives, even though you or me would have done it differently, and to get behind this Springbok side for the Rugby World Cup, where they will be representing their country to the best of their abilities.
The “Ghost Squad” has already been discussed ad-nauseam, the announced squad is exactly the same and feature the inclusion of fringe players like Zane Kirchner, Rudy Paige, Siya Kolisi and Morné Steyn.
Injured or previously injured players like Fourie du Preez, Jean de Villiers, Duane Vermeulen, Coenie Oosthuizen, Jannie du Plessis is also be included in the squad.
A number of players are hugely unlucky not to be selected, they include Heinrich Brüssow, Steven Kitshoff, Marcel van der Merwe, Vincent Koch, Marcell Coetzee, Jan Serfontein, Frans Steyn, Cornal Hendricks, Cobus Reinach and Francois Hougaard.
Here is the Springbok Rugby World Cup squad for 2015, which is now official:
The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has reportedly agreed to extend Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer’s contract.
Local media reports on Wednesday indicated that Meyer’s contract has already been extended by another 4 years until after the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
When these reports surfaced, SARU responded with the following statement:
“It is SARU policy to only make announcements on the contractual arrangements of key employees when there is something to announce. The contractual position of the Springbok coach is unchanged,” said a SARU spokesperson.
Meyer was also reluctant to comment when probed on the matter after naming his team for this weekend’s Test against Los Pumas.
“I said I want to serve and make a difference. If you ask every single guy on the street they would say I make a difference but in a negative way. The only thing I worry about is not the next 4 years, it’s the next 4 minutes,” he said at a press conference in Durban on Wednesday.
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, Marcell Coetzee and Willie le Roux have all been ruled out of the return match against Los Pumas in Buenos Aires next weekend, because of injuries.
Jean de Villiers fractured his jaw in The Rugby Championship defeat against the Pumas at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban on Saturday, which will rule him out for 4 to 6 weeks. The Springbok captain will be able to continue with the bulk of the training sessions during this time.
Marcell Coetzee suffered a medial collateral ligament injury to his left knee, which will rule him out for approximately 6 weeks. The injury is unrelated to the knee injury he suffered a few weeks ago in Brisbane.
Willie le Roux sprained his ankle early in the match against Los Pumas and will not be considered for the trip to Buenos Aires. He will undergo scans early in the week to determine the exact nature of the injury.
Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts said that players possibly returning from injury, such as Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez and JP Pietersen, will be assessed on Monday before a decision on their availability for next weekend will be taken.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has admitted that a combination of injuries and the 2 narrow defeats in the opening part of The Rugby Championship have changed his plans slightly, but he is still committed to making conditioning the priority after this week’s clash with Los Pumas at Growthpoint Kings Park.
Meyer said after announcing his team for the match that several 1st choice players will stay behind in Durban when the playing squad travels to Buenos Aires next week for what has the status of a return ‘friendly’ international against the Pumas. However, because he is coaching the South African national team and knows how important winning is to the nation, he’s not going to make changes to quite the extent that he intended to when he did his planning for the Rugby World Cup build-up.
“I’ve always said that I haven’t been happy with the fitness and conditioning and the last 2 matches when we lost in the last few minutes proved that we still have a lot of work to do in that regard,” said Meyer.
“My plan has always been to implement a very intense 3 week conditioning programme after The Rugby Championship is completed and that will mean that some of the top players will be staying behind in Durban next week rather than going to Argentina. If we are going to win the World Cup it is imperative that we get our conditioning right and the players can look forward to a really tough camp.
“The players who do travel to Argentina will slot into that fitness camp after they return. We are going to make an all-out effort to get the conditioning right. It is something that has improved gradually over the past few years, but we need the 3 week conditioning top up that is planned in order to get it totally right.”
Xerox Golden Lions lock Franco Mostert and Steval Pumas scrumhalf Faf de Klerk have been released from the Springbok camp and will be available for their provinces in the ABSA Currie Cup.
Both Mostert and De Klerk joined their provinces late on Tuesday.
In addition, Coenie Oosthuizen, who has not been an official member of the squad, will continue with his rehabilitation away from the camp.
Experienced loose forward Schalk Burger will become the 55th Springbok captain on Saturday when he leads South Africa out against New Zealand at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.
The 32-year-old Burger has been named interim captain, in the absence of the injured Jean de Villiers and Victor Matfield. He assumes the captaincy from Matfield, who was ruled out of action in the short term after suffering a hamstring strain against Australia’s Wallabies on Saturday.
“Schalk has been a magnificent servant of Springbok rugby and he fully deserves this responsibility,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Tuesday.
“The resilience he’s shown in coming back from serious injury and illness is the kind of qualities I look for in players as well as teams I coach.
“In my eyes, the captaincy is very important and something I never take lightly or want to cheapen. Schalk’s character and the fact that he has been a role model for so many through the years made this an easy decision.
The Springboks got their year off to a winning start on Saturday with 46 / 10 victory over a star-studded World XV at Newlands in Cape Town.
In ice-cold conditions, close to those expected at the World Cup later this year, the Springboks outscored their visitors by 7 tries to 1 – including 3 for fullback Willie le Roux – but Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will take the result with a pinch of salt, since most of the players in this World XV side have been on holiday for a month, and it showed.
There was some positive feedback in terms of the home team’s ability to create scoring opportunities, which bodes well for their chances in The Rugby Championship that kicks off next weekend, but they were never really given the defensive examination Meyer had hoped for, apart from a short period when they were force to defend with 13 men.
The Springboks’ inability to hold onto the ball for long periods was, however, a concern as they spent a disproportionate amount of the game in their own half.
The biggest cheer of the night was reserved for Jean de Villiers, who made his long-awaited return from injury on the hour mark before providing the pass that put Le Roux over for his hat-trick.
Two injured players in the Springbok training squad, Frans Steyn and Pieter-Steph du Toit, have been temporarily released from the squad to continue their rehabilitation in Durban for the next few weeks.
Neither of them are expected to be fit for the Springboks’ 1st 2 matches of the season, next Saturday against the World XV in Cape Town and a week later against Australia in Brisbane. Steyn has a pectoral muscle tear, while Du Toit is recovering from a knee injury.
According to Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer the decision to send Steyn and Du Toit home was taken with the best interests of the players in mind.
“We’ve discussed the way forward with the players, and all of us agreed that the best way forward at this stage is for them to get full-time rehabilitation at their home province, while our own medical team will keep very close tabs on their progress,” said Meyer.
“Both of them are still firmly in our plans going forward for the season and I really hope they can get back onto the field sooner rather than later. I’m confident the individual attention they will receive in Durban will be a massive benefit to them in the long run.
“We won’t be taking Frans or Pieter-Steph with us to Australia and will reassess their situation when we return from Brisbane.”
With the International Test window just around the corner (11 July), the Rugby news in South Africa is being dominated by Springbok preparations for what lies ahead in 2015… The World XV game, the abbreviated Rugby Championship and 1 further match against Los Pumas and of course the Rugby World Cup from 18 September to 31 October 2015.
Of course, it could also be argued that we do not have anything else to talk about, because South African sides have all been done and dusted with Super Rugby for a couple of weeks already, whilst 2 New Zealand sides are still contesting it… on their ownsome lonesome!
Maybe it is a blessing in disguise though, for overall Springbok preparations, as they now have much more time to get their ducks in a row for the international scene, and to re-introduce the injured and rehabilitating players…
BUT, and it’s a big BUT… the injury list seems almost as long as the list of fighting fit candidates and that is a big concern.
In this article, we focus on what Heyneke Meyer says and feels about his chosen Springbok squad, and we have a good look at the fitness and injury update from the Springbok camp.
The selection of 8 uncapped players and the return of a further 6 are the features of the Springbok squad named on Saturday for the 5 matches leading up to the Rugby World Cup later this season.
In addition to the 36 squad members, the national selectors have identified 13 players who are currently injured or will be in rehabilitation, but will form part of an extended squad for the matches against the World XV, Castle Lager Rugby Championship and the Test against Argentina in Buenos Aires.
The uncapped players in the squad are Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch, Rudy Paige, Faf de Klerk, Jesse Kriel, Franco Mostert and Lionel Mapoe.
Back in the Springbok fold after not featuring in any Springbok Tests last year, are Elton Jantjies, Frans Steyn, Jaque Fourie, Heinrich Brüssow, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Heinke van der Merwe.
The currently injured players included in the squad are Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, Lionel Mapoe, Heinrich Brüssow, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Frans Steyn, Coenie Oosthuizen, Lood de Jager, Duane Vermeulen, Cobus Reinach, Pat Lambie, Jaque Fourie, Jan Serfontein and Fourie du Preez. The latter suffered a knee injury while training with his Japanese club earlier this week.
“It’s a long list of injured players but all of them are in the selection frame and we’d like to work with them to assist with their rehabilitation,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
The Vodacom Bulls are totally mum as to who could possibly succeed Frans Ludeke as their new Super Rugby head coach.
Media speculation has been rife about possible candidates for the new post in Pretoria.
Junior Springbok coach Dawie Theron is being mentioned as a possible successor to Ludeke, who was stood down despite having another year left on his contract.
Despite the Theron rumours, the Bulls insist no decision has been made yet.
“The Blue Bulls Company (BBC) will not comment about rumours about possible coaches mentioned in the media,” CEO Barend van Graan said.
Springbok lock Victor Matfield has also been touted as a possible head coach, as well as current Springbok assistant coach Johann van Graan.
On Saturday Heyneke Meyer will give the 1st indication of which foreign-based players will feature in the World Cup.
Meyer is set to name his squad to play a World XV at Newlands on 11 July – with Jean de Villiers set to make his comeback from injury, most likely off the bench.
But it will also be the 1st opportunity for the foreign-based players to re-introduce themselves to the local lads.
The incumbent Springbok captain, De Villiers, dislocated his patella in the South Africa’s 6 / 12 loss to Wales in Cardiff at the end of November last year and had to undergo reconstructive knee surgery.
If his rehabilitation goes according to schedule, the Springbok captain will play his 1st proper match in 8 months in a Currie Cup warm-up clash for Western Province against the Pumas in Franschoek on 18 July.
Province then travel to Port Elizabeth a week later for another friendly against the EP Kings, where De Villiers is also expected to feature.
However, before that De Villiers is set to play for the Springboks in the World XV clash at Newlands for a few minutes.
There are plenty of South Africans plying their trade overseas and of course some of them could and will be selected in the 31-man squad come Saturday.
However, none of them have featured at the recent Springbok training camps.
Could Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer possibly return to the Vodacom Bulls after this year’s Rugby World Cup?
The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has not yet offered Meyer an extension of his contract beyond the current Rugby World Cup.
While talks are ongoing at SARU about Meyer’s future, it is understood the Vodacom Bulls would be happy to return him and his management team to Loftus Versfeld if he doesn’t continue as Springbok coach.
The future of current Bulls coach, Frans Ludeke, appears uncertain after the men from Pretoria again failed to reach the Super Rugby playoffs.
Ludeke has a contract with the Bulls until October 2016, but there are rumours he could be relieved of his coaching duties, while there is also talk of Ludeke being promoted to Director of Rugby.
There is a method to the apparent ‘madness’ of Heyneke Meyer’s approach to the Springboks’ 2015 World Cup campaign.
Spending some time with the Bok mentor at a training camp in Cape Town this week, it became abundantly clear just how much preparation has already gone into South Africa’s campaign.
In fact the Bok coach even investigated the hotel beds the players will encounter during their stay in England in September and October – prompting media banter that the ‘Bok coach is sleeping on the job’.
However, even the massive 40-odd players at the 2 training camps – in Johannesburg last month and Cape Town this week – are part of a carefully orchestrated plan to ensure the Boks have the best possible chance of becoming the 1st country to win the Webb Ellis Cup for a 3rd time.
Meyer said the large squads are all part of his long-term plan, with a lot of the younger players that he can take forward.
Back in the Emirates Lions starting line-up for Saturday’s Super Rugby clash against the Brumbies at Emirates Airline Park, Elton Jantjies is enjoying one of his better seasons on South African soil.
The Johannesburg side are very much in playoff contention and Jantjies has become coach Johan Ackermann’s 1st choice pivot along the way.
A few rugby minds have now started wondering whether or not Jantjies has done enough to work his way into Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer’s World Cup plans. The smart money remains on the flyhalf slot going to either Handré Pollard or Patrick Lambie and while Jantjies has not ruled out any possibilities he chooses instead to let his performances do the talking.
“I can talk a big game but if my performances on the field don’t match up, there is no point in me saying that I want to go to the World Cup and be the 1st-choice flyhalf,” Jantjies said.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is clear – the best 31 players need to go to this year’s Rugby World Cup.
Meyer began his 1st Springbok training camp with a bit of a stutter as no less than 19 of the 44 players invited to the camp couldn’t train with the Bok management. Add to that the Sharks who are overseas on tour, and there wasn’t too much training that could get done.
But despite that, the Bok coach used the time to reveal his World Cup plans to players, tell individuals what he expected of them and will use the remainder of the time to share calls, plays and get down to technical nuances for the players to take home as “homework” before they meet again in the 2nd camp in a few weeks’ time.
The final squad is only set to be selected at the end of August, when the chosen 31 will be revealed to the country for the showpiece tournament in England. But 1 thing is clear, while competition will be tough between players, only the best 31 in Meyer’s mind will be selected, meaning a number of top players may well miss out.
However Meyer has admitted that he hasn’t made up his mind yet, giving players the chance in the remainder of the Vodacom Super Rugby competition as well as the camps, to make an indelible impression on him.
And with that in mind, he may have an idea of the starting line-up, but Meyer believes beyond the starting 15, the other 16 places are still up for grabs.
This week, there is a lot of news, from various fronts, on the Springboks.
The Rugby Championship game times have been announced, as has the host city for the additional Springbok game against the Pumas in Buenos Aires.
News from this week’s Springbok Training camp is dominated by the amount of injured players at the camp as well as the news today that Flip van der Merwe has made himself unavailable to the Springboks in 2015 and also for the Rugby World Cup. The reports on the injury and rehabilitation of Springbok captain also comes under discussion, with the prognosis and likelyhood of him making the world premier Rugby World Cup competition very positive.
SARU also announced today that Rhino was appointed as equipment supplier of the Springboks.
Springbok coach, Heyneke Meyer, has announced 2 sets of 44 players to participate in training camps in May and June in Johannesburg and Cape Town respectively.
The squads include a total of 19 uncapped players, including rising stars Jesse Kriel, Vincent Koch, Cheslin Kolbe and Bongi Mbonami.
He has been keeping a low public profile during the 1st half of Super Rugby’s ordinary season … and it is probably just as well.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer must be scratching his head worriedly already over how to construct his national side for the 1st assignment of the 2015 Test season, against Australia in Brisbane on 18 July as part of a condensed Rugby Championship.
Presently several Boks are either injured, suspended or undergoing rest periods (the sudden pulling of Duane Vermeulen from the Stormers’ overseas tour after only 1 match has tongues wagging despite official statements that it was “always planned”), whilst other staple characters have suffered form dips in line with the general struggles of their sides in the local conference and overall.
It is difficult to envisage any SA team actually winning Super Rugby at this point – not the ideal state of affairs in a World Cup year, even if it is not always proved to be relevant — just as it is hazardous to predict which franchise will eventually top the ho-hum domestic pile.
It is true that a few additional players like overseas-based Bryan Habana, Fourie du Preez and Francois Louw and a rehabilitating Pieter-Steph du Toit should brighten the Bok equation, fitness permitting, nearer the Test roster itself, and 1 or 2 outsiders like Stormers tighthead strongman Vincent Koch and some surprise-package Lions personnel have stuck up their hands.
Yet a look at the last Springbok line-up for a Test – the unpalatable 12 / 6 loss to Wales in Cardiff on 29 November9 last year – gives you an idea of Meyer’s quandary; things look considerably more unsettled than he would like.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer and his SA Under 20 counterpart Dawie Theron recently renewed their BokSmart certification for a further 2 years.
Meyer renewed his certification in Pretoria last week, while Theron was joined by 3 members of the South African Rugby Union’s High Performance Mobi-Unit and Springbok coaching consultants, Pieter de Villiers, Louis Koen and Chean Roux, as well as Jacques Nienaber, High Performance Manager in the Rugby Department, in Cape Town earlier this month.
The biennial BokSmart certification is compulsory for anybody who wants to coach or referee rugby in South Africa at any level. The 3 Springbok assistant coaches, Johann van Graan, Ricardo Loubscher and John McFarland, are certified until 2016 while Springbok consultant Richie Gray will renew his certification later this year.
BokSmart provides coaches and referees with the knowledge and skills to apply safe rugby techniques and basic medical and injury prevention practices.
A critical element of Heyneke Meyer’s tight-forward plans for Rugby World Cup 2015, plus his unpredictable backline talisman… already under injury scares.
If you’d told Heyneke Meyer – presumably a long way from the untelevised encounter – before Friday’s Newlands friendly between the Stormers and Cheetahs that two players falling into those categories would pull up injured in it, the ever-animated Springbok head coach might have been excused for having kittens on the spot.
But that is precisely what occurred in the pre-season affair, won 39 / 31 by the hosts in an otherwise productive work-out for both teams, as Eben Etzebeth and Willie le Roux fell foul of the curse.
Oddly, the more alarming of the incidents, on initial viewing, appeared to affect fullback magician, Willie lLe Roux, during the 2nd half – and he had only got on the park off the bench for the start of it.
But with just 7 minutes remaining, the IRB Player of the Year nominee for 2014 collapsed in a writhing heap after being tackled, clutching the area around his left ankle. To watching spectators on the fairly sparsely-populated Railway Stand, it wouldn’t have looked good at all.
The International season is done for the Southern Hemisphere and for Springbok rugby for 2014 and the only rugby of real importance left for us southern rugby junkies, are the 2 remaining HSBC Sevens World Series Tournaments in 2014 – the Dubai Sevens this coming weekend and the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens Tournament the week thereafter.
In the meantime the Southern Hemisphere Super Rugby sides are extremely busy with their preparation work, conditioning and getting ready for Super Rugby 2015.
The question is, what has the Springboks learnt from the year of 2014 and from the End Of Year Tour?
Will we see a total change of tack and a move away from the high-ball kick and chase bombs from the Springboks? Very few International Tests remain before the start of the Rugby World Cup 2015 (18 September 2015) in England, however a full season of Super Rugby and the abbreviated Rugby Championship still loom in 2015 before the World Cup starts.
Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks and Lwazi Mvovo are back in the Springbok starting line-up for Saturday’s Test against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
The changes in the back three were required because Johan Goosen, Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen, who started in last weekend’s victory over Italy in Padova, are not available this week. The two changes to the front row are rotational.
Adriaan Strauss, who started at hooker in the victories over England and Italy, moves to the bench, where he will be joined by Trevor Nyakane and Damian de Allende in the only other changes to the match-23.
“This tour has been a good test of our depth and we’re looking forward to see what the team can do on Saturday,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
Twelve months ago the Springbok talent cupboard looked bare – with a dearth of back-up in several key positions.
Now, less than 10 months out from the start of the World Cup, South African coach Heyneke Meyer believes he has ‘plugged all the gaps’.
Speaking after his team’s hard-earned 22-6 win over Italy in Padua at the weekend, Meyer said he is “very happy” with the state of the Boks’ player resources.
Tighthead prop and fullback were among the two positions where depth was a major concern, but the added bonus of Nizaam Carr’s outstanding debut means Meyer’s already well-stocked loose forward resources have an additional arrow in the quiver.
“I said Nizaam was running great lines in training (last week),” Meyer told a media scrum.
“The test was to take that into a Test match where there isn’t a lot of space and he came through with flying colours.”
Heyneke Meyer paid tribute to Bakkies Botha, who announced his retirement from international rugby shortly after the Test.
“Bakkies will go down in history as one of the greatest Springboks of all time,” said Meyer of the 85-times capped lock forward. “He is a giant on the field and off it and never gave an inch, which personifies what Springbok rugby is all about.
“I’ve coached him for a very long time and while I’m immensely very proud of the player he’s become, I’m even more proud of the man Bakkies has become. I’ll forever be very proud of having been his coach.”
Rugby World Cup winners JP Pietersen and Schalk Burger will start Saturday’s second Test in the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour against England at Twickenham as the Springbok match-23 is retained from last weekend.
The five changes to the team are straight swaps between the starting line-up and the bench. Along with Pietersen and Burger, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has handed starts to hooker Adriaan Strauss and the halfback pair of Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie.
Cornal Hendricks, Handré Pollard, Francois Hougaard, Teboho Mohoje and Bismarck du Plessis will start on the bench.
“We’ve accepted our performance against Ireland last weekend was not up to scratch and everyone in the touring squad has put up their hands and dug deep this week,” said Meyer. “We’ve really worked hard at fixing the mistakes we made and the challenge is now to put that into action on Saturday.”
Meyer said the changes were not a knee-jerk reaction following the result in Dublin, but rather in line with rotational changes that he had in mind before the start of the tour.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has warned his team they will need to be at their best if they are to keep their unbeaten record under his management in the Northern Hemisphere intact.
Meyer singled out the team’s first fixture against Ireland as a crucial one to kick off the team’s four week tour, and one which is the most tricky of all their fixtures.
While England has been singled out before as the fixture the Boks are likely to hold in the highest esteem, especially with next year’s Rugby World Cup being played there, the Boks know they cannot focus on the Twickenham showdown before getting past the tricky Irish, who have been a team that has plagued them at this time of year under previous coaches.
The Boks didn’t play Ireland when they went north last year, but the Irish will still be smarting from coming amazingly close to beating the All Blacks in Dublin last year, as the New Zealanders snatched the game away from them in the dying seconds to end their season unbeaten.