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Heyneke Meyer

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South AfricaSpringbok coach Heyneke Meyer expects higher standards in Australia than his side achieved against Argentina.

Although they beat the Pumas at home and away, neither of the wins were convincing with torrential rain slowing them down in Pretoria before they got out of jail in Salta.

Meyer admitted that he was not satisfied with their two performances thus far, and added that they will have to lift their standards if they are to get the better of a competitive Wallabies outfit.

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South AfricaVictor Matfield is over his injury problems and will rejoin the Springbok squad when they get together for the Australasian leg of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, while Marcel van der Merwe has been called up for the injured Frans Malherbe.

Furthermore, Willem Alberts has also been drafted back into the squad, pending a fitness test on Thursday when the squad gets together in Johannesburg. Both Alberts and Matfield were part of the initial 30-man squad, but missed out on the victories over Argentina in Pretoria and Salta because of injury.

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Jannie du Plessis

Springbok prop, Jannie du Plessis

After the mauling the Springbok scrum received at the hands of the Pumas in two consecutive tests there have been calls from armchair critics for coach Heyneke Meyer to make changes, but in the naming of his 30-man squad for the Australasian leg of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship came confirmation that his hands are tied.

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Lood de Jager

Lood de Jager

Lood de Jager, the ‘next big thing’ in the Springbok second row, has been ‘missing in action’ of late.

De Jager, after a series of stand-out performances for the Cheetahs in this year’s Super Rugby tournament, made his debut in the Green and Gold against Wales in Durban during the Incoming Series and currently has five Test caps to his name.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Taking their heads out of the sand and admitting that there is a massive problem with the scrum would be a good start, but the Springbok self-analysis will have to go far further than that if the problems that were exposed by Argentina are not to lead to crisis later in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.

On a Saturday when New Zealand comprehensively swept away any doubt that they remain the team to beat and confirmed the pre-tournament predictions that they should retain their hegemony in southern hemisphere rugby, Salta provided evidence that the creaks that started to show themselves in the South African game in the second test against Wales may not have just been an aberration.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer, the coach of the team with the most “character” in the world.

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer hailed the character of his team Sunday in the wake of a lucky 33-31 Rugby Championship victory over Argentina in Salta.

Serial match-winner Morne Steyn ignored whistling and booing to slot a penalty three minutes from time and give the Springboks a second win over the Pumas within eight days.

It was the climax of a stirring last-quarter comeback by the visitors as tries from right-wing Cornal Hendricks and flank Marcell Coetzee wiped out a 12-point deficit.

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Lood de Jager

Lood de Jager

The Springboks made three changes to their starting XV, with two of them effecting the line-out structures – which already appeared weak in Pretoria last week.

The line-out has long been a strength of the Boks, and a lot of this dominance in the set pieces can be attributed to the maestro that is Victor Matfield.

The veteran lock was sorely missed last weekend when the Boks’ line-out struggled, in albeit poor conditions, against the Argentineans at Loftus Versfeld.

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South AfricaJuan Smith will complete a remarkable return to international rugby when he runs out for the Springboks against Argentina in Salta on Saturday, in the Springboks’ second Test of The Rugby Championship (kick-off 21:40 SA Time).

Smith’s inclusion at flank is one of three changes to the starting 15, with a further four changes on the bench.

Gurthrö Steenkamp (prop) and Eben Etzebeth (lock) will start in the tight five, with Tendai Mtawarira and Bakkies Botha moving to the bench. Marcell Coetzee will join them amongst the replacements after coming in as a late substitute for the injured Willem Alberts last weekend.

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South AfricaThe Springboks have landed in Argentina with no injury concerns, but Meyer will be forced to ponder the likes of fit-again Pat Lambie and Juan Smith.

Having come away from the wet and wild Loftus Versfeld with only an injury before the game to Willem Alberts, Meyer will have a full compliment to pick from when they play Argentina in Salta.

Meyer has now picked up Lions captain Warren Whiteley as cover for Alberts who is staying at home alongside Victor Matfield.

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WP RugbyWhen the Springboks finished off their 2013 campaign with a victory over France in Paris, coach Heyneke Meyer spoke about the need for South African rugby to undergo revolutionary change in order to close the gap that the All Blacks enjoyed when it came to conditioning and mental strength.

At the start of the 2014 Castle Lager Rugby Championship, he continued the theme of revolution, this time talking about the need to bring greater intensity and tempo to the Bok game, to be able to out-think opponents now that the days of bludgeoning opposition with physicality are in the past.

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Jannie du Plessis & Tendai Mtawarira

Jannie du Plessis & Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira

The Springboks missed an ideal opportunity to put the pressure on New Zealand and Australia after the latter two sides drew 12-all in the first game of this year’s Rugby Championship at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney on Saturday.

To say the unseasonal Loftus monsoon made constructive rugby extremely difficult is an understatement, but one would like to believe that the Boks should have played the situation much better than Saturday’s 13-6 victory in their opener against Argentina in Pretoria.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is set to use a very different starting line-up when his team face off with Argentina in their Castle Lager Rugby Championship return fixture in Salta on Saturday.

While the Loftus Versfeld monsoon did little to answer questions ahead of the bigger clashes in this year’s Championship, it did at least give the Boks a solid start to the campaign and much food for thought ahead of the traditionally tough return fixture in Argentina.

Following a narrow win last year and a draw in 2012, the Boks know all too well how difficult the Argentinean experience will be for them, and are likely to bolster their squad with a number of senior players when they make their team selection on Wednesday.

The side arrived in Sao Paulo safely en route to Buenos Aires and will get there Monday evening South African time, meaning there will only be time for two training sessions before they transfer to Salta later in the week for the game.

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South AfricaContrary to the expected dry conditions on the Highveld, the Springboks had to adapt to hail and torrential rain in their narrow 13-6 Rugby Championship opener against Argentina in Pretoria on Saturday.

“We really wanted to play exciting rugby. We picked an exciting backline as we thought we would have an open, running game on the Highveld,” Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said after the nail-biting match.

“I am very proud of the team. That game could have gone either way. A lot of the Argentineans play in Europe, where they are used to the conditions, and they forced us into a kicking battle.”

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Craig Roberts

Dr Craig Roberts

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has been given a massive boost with the news that he should be able to pick as close to his strongest side for this weekend’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship opener against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld.

Team doctor Craig Roberts cleared props Frans Malherbe, Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira and lock Eben Etzebeth for action and crucially also gave captain Jean de Villiers the all-clear to play this weekend after spending the last few months on the sidelines with injury.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

The question to be asked is: How does Heyneke Meyer compare with South Africa’s most successful coaches?

For this exercise, I decided to take two former coaches – the World Cup-winner, Jake White and Nick Mallett, who is currently the co-holder of the record for most consecutive Test victories – to draw a comparison with Meyer’s first two years in the hotseat.

The cold statistics will tell us only part of the story, but it is certainly important that we take them into account – or at least use it as a starting point.

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Heyneke Meyer emotional and animated in the game between Wallabies vs Springboks, The Rugby Championship, Brisbane, 7 September 2013

Heyneke Meyer emotional and animated in the game between Wallabies vs Springboks, The Rugby Championship, Brisbane, 7 September 2013

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is adamant in his belief the Boks won’t be the best in the world until they get their conditioning right.

While Meyer admits the relationship between the various Super Rugby franchises and the Springboks has taken massive steps forward, and right now, the Boks are probably ahead of their fitness goals for this time of the season, the whole mindset needs to be radically challenged across the board, with the modern game calling for super fit players who can play at pace.

If there ever was an advert for this, the Vodacom Super Rugby final comes to mind, and where in the past the Boks have tried to slow the game down, they now will need to confront the pace and show they can play at the same level, if not better when they need to if they are to get to the top of the world rankings.

This in itself is a mindshift that needs to happen across the board. While the overseas departures weakened Super Rugby franchises this year many of the problems encountered at Super Rugby level – especially on defence – were because sides fell off the pace and therefore let in soft tries.

Meyer presented his ideas to the board last year and already conditioning expert Basil Carzis has been working with the franchises, but the Boks need to do more.

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Eben Etzebeth

Eben Etzebeth

Frans Malherbe

Frans Malherbe

Two members of the Springboks’ Castle Lager Rugby Championship squad, Eben Etzebeth and Frans Malherbe, have been released to play in the opening round of the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division for DHL Western Province on Friday evening.

Both players are returning from long-term injuries and will be allowed some game time for WP to ease them back into the game.

Etzebeth’s last game was in November 2013, for the Springboks against France in Paris, where he picked up a foot injury. Malherbe has been out for more than three months with concussion.

“Following medical assessments and consultation between our medical team and those of the various provinces, it was decided to release Eben and Frans for this weekend,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

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Jean de Villiers

Jean de Villiers

South AfricaSpringbok captain Jean de Villiers has recovered from the knee injury which kept him out of the June Tests and is back in the national squad for the forthcoming Castle Lager Rugby Championship.

De Villiers is one of six players returning from injury after missing the entire or a part of the Castle Lager Incoming Series.

The others are Tendai Mtawarira (prop), Frans Malherbe (prop), Eben Etzebeth (lock), Patrick Lambie (flyhalf / fullback) and Damian de Allende (centre).

De Allende, who was forced to withdraw from the squad in June because of a knee ligament injury, and scrumhalf Cobus Reinach are the only two uncapped players in the 30-man Springbok squad.

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Heyneke Meyer

Is Heyneke Meyer putting too many “old eggs” in one basket?

Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer continues his “Dad’s Army” approach by recalling veteran flanker Juan Smith for a training camp ahead of next month’s Rugby Championship.

French club Toulon confirmed three of their South African signings – Smith, lock Bakkies Botha and wing Bryan Habana – would be involved in the Boks camp.

Smith, 32, hasn’t played for the Boks since 2010 as Achilles injuries requiring four surgeries ravaged his career, eventually forcing him to “retire” early last year.

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Rassie Erasmus

Rassie Erasmus at the 2014 Craven Week

Rassie Erasmus’ biggest role as high performance manager is to implement Heyneke Meyer’s plans across the board.

Erasmus, widely praised for his work in turning Western Province rugby around, was spotted at the Coca-Cola Craven Week in Middelburg. Having joined Saru as high performance manager in April 2012, Erasmus has been working tirelessly to implement a new structure in South African rugby, building a team of coaches, analysts and medical staff that can help develop the country’s best young talent into potential Springbok candidates. Craven Week plays an integral role in this development, something that Erasmus is well aware of.

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O joy... another maul

O joy… another maul

Winning the 2007 Rugby World Cup was a momentous occasion for Springboks but it has done little for the development of the way rugby is played in South Africa.

I believe that the so-called ‘Jake White template’ has been detrimental to South African rugby on a number of levels.

Let me start by saying that I can’t fault White’s tactics in 2007. Given the weapons at his disposal, the approach he adopted was spot on. The efficacy of this approach (when correctly executed) is not in question. My aim here is rather point to the consequences of the mindset that in has become enrooted in SA rugby because of it’s (limited) success.

Ross Hastie

What concerns me is that the territory-based and defence-orientated approach employed back then has been widely adopted in the Republic and in many quarters is still held up as a blueprint for future success.

From a coaching perspective, it’s not difficult to see why this methodology is popular. Giant men imposing themselves with hard, straight running and big hits have always been the hallmarks of the South African style.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Lood de Jager

Lood de Jager

The joke is going around that Heyneke Meyer describes everything the Bokke does as “AWESOME“!

Well, the South African public have reason to be AWED by the AWESOME display of the Springboks and their AWESOME coach!

Not only are the Springboks playing a very well-rounded and balanced game, 2 and a half years into Heyneke Meyer’s tenure, but it appears that the Springoks can now call on 40 odd players to do National duty for them at any given time.

Not only do the Springboks have locks of absolute world class to burn, the looseforwards are equally impressive, the midfield options have been greatly bolstered… and the flyhalf stocks are suddenly no concern anymore, with well-rounded performances by Handré Pollard and Marnitz Boshoff.

The biggest problems still for the Springboks, seem to be adequate depth at both loosehead and tighthead prop.

With almost 30 frontline Springboks out with injury and / or not available due to the International Window having closed before the start of the Test on the weekend, the mix-and-match Springboks certainly excelled on the weekend.

The 5 Springbok debutants, Handré Pollard, Marnitz Boshoff, Marcel van der Merwe, Stephan Lewies and Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje also distinguished themselves on the field of play.

At the end of the June Internationals, the Springboks and Heyneke Meyer finally have reason to smile!

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Teboho Mahoje

Teboho Mahoje

The running joke may be that Heyneke Meyer is selecting his best side for the 2007 Rugby World Cup with the number of Springbok veterans in his side, but the inclusion of Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje for Saturday’s Test against Scotland may suggest otherwise.

The versatile loose forward had experienced a meteoric rise in his career and could make his Springbok debut playing off the bench against Scotland in Port Elizabeth only a few months after playing Varsity Cup rugby for Shimlas.

While a patch of grey hair in his primary school years secured him the Afrikaans nickname “oupa”, meaning grandfather, the versatile forward is anything but a geriatric.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Oregan Hoskins

Oregan Hoskins

Tank Lanning

Tank Lanning

Tank Lanning, former WP tighthead prop and head of Tankman Media has an interesting look at the Springbok team chosen to play against Scotland as well as the words of the uber-opportunist, Oregan Hoskins earlier this week regarding supposed instructions to Bok coach Heyneke Meyer.

This is pretty much they way I feel about it too and for once I am able to agree with something Lanning said, without hesitation!

Good piece, Tank!!

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Handré Pollard

Handré Pollard

South AfricaJunior Springbok captain Handré Pollard is one of five uncapped players who have been named in the Springboks’ match-23 for Saturday’s final encounter of the Castle Lager Incoming Series against Scotland in Port Elizabeth.

In total, the Springbok starting team shows six changes from the side which beat Wales by 31-30 in Nelspruit last weekend.

The four uncapped players on a new-look bench are Marcel van der Merwe (prop), Stephan Lewies (lock), Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje (loose forward) and Marnitz Boshoff (flyhalf). Also on the bench are Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Francois Hougaard and Zane Kirchner, none of whom have played any Test rugby yet this season.

Two players, Pollard and Marcell Coetzee, have not yet featured for the Springboks this year, while four of these are replacements who have been promoted to the starting team, namely Lwazi Mvovo, Schalk Burger, Lood de Jager and Coenie Oosthuizen.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

The Springbok team to face Scotland in Port Elizabeth will be markedly different from the one that edged Wales in Nelspruit, by necessity rather than design.

With seven European-based players unavailable for selection and at least another two starters ruled through injury Heyneke Meyer’s hand will be forced when he names his team to face an under-strength Scotland.

However, the idea that Meyer should completely overhaul the team and give promising youngsters a shot because the match falls outside the June Test window and Scotland will not have their best team on the park is a little bit misguided.

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Morné Steyn

Morné Steyn

South African coach Heyneke Meyer dished out a swipe at the ongoing criticism of Springbok flyhalf Morné Steyn.

The 55-Test veteran was a pivotal player in the Boks’ 38-16 (5 tries to 1) demolition of Wales in Durban at the weekend, but still haven’t convinced his detractors that he is the real deal.

Not only did he produce a 100 percent goal-kicking performance (5 conversions and a penalty), but the 37 times he handled the ball he kicked just 10 times – with 21 passes and 6 runs.

The Bok coach, Meyer, pointed out that the high attrition rate among flyhalves makes Steyn an even more valuable asset to the national team.

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South Africa

Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer had every reason to be beaming on Saturday night as he reflected on a performance against Wales that spoke volumes about how far his team has travelled since he took charge in 2012.

In the end a sloppy second half and a more committed Welsh defensive line saw to it that the Boks didn’t complete the massacre that threatened at halftime, when the hosts led 28-9 and had already scored four well taken tries. Just 10 points were added after the break against a Welsh try to George North, but who would quibble about a 38-16 win over Wales.

It was the most complete performance turned in at the weekend by the big three southern hemisphere teams, and was arguably better than Australia’s annihilation of France the previous week. There was always going to be a step up in the Bok performance once the test matches arrived and they’d left the ambiguity of playing a World XV that included several of their countrymen behind, and they provided it.

It was at the same Kings Park a just a week out from being a year ago that the Boks first started to show indications that under Meyer they weren’t going to be stuck in the conservative rut they had been in the previous season. They thumped Italy fairly comprehensively, and afterwards everyone was talking about the pace that had been injected out wide.

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Willie le Roux was electric against Wales!

Willie le Roux was electric against Wales!

South AfricaSpringbok coach Heyneke Meyer praised his team’s character and commitment in Durban after they defeated Wales 38-16 in the first of two tests in the Castle Lager Incoming Series at Growthpoint Kings Park on Saturday.

The coach admitted that they had a tough week leading up to the Test match, as they had to take to the field with a number of new combinations and debutants.

“It was a tough week with a lot of disruptions. I asked the guys to put their bodies on the line today as it was important for us to start well. I am very pleased with their response and effort, especially in the first half. I am very proud to be coach of this team,” Meyer said.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

South AfricaSpringbok coach Heyneke Meyer says he has faced some of his toughest days in the job recently, leading up to the announcement of his team to play Wales in the first of two Tests in Durban on Saturday.

“It’s definitely been the toughest few weeks for me,” Meyer said in Durban on Wednesday.

“You plan for five months, you can’t wait to get going and then suddenly you get curve balls from all over.”

“It’s been tough … losing some quality centres within the space of a week or a week and half.”

The South African camp was hit by the news of Francois Steyn’s withdrawal from the squad late on Tuesday.

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Gurthrö Steenkamp

Gurthrö Steenkamp

South AfricaSouth Africa’s Player of the Year in 2010, Gurthrö Steenkamp, will make his 50th Test appearance for the Springboks when they take on Wales at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban on Saturday (kick-off 17:00 SA Time, 15:00 GMT).

Steenkamp has been included in the starting line-up for the first Welsh Test in one of six changes to the match-day squad from the team which comprehensively beat the World XV last weekend in Cape Town, four of which are positional shifts.

Cornal Hendricks, who shone for the Springboks last weekend at DHL Newlands, will make his Test debut on Saturday, while his provincial team mate from the Toyota Free State Cheetahs, the uncapped Lood de Jager, has been selected on the bench.

The two changes in the backline are at inside centre, where Jan Serfontein will earn his first Test start for South Africa, and scrumhalf, where Fourie du Preez will start with Ruan Pienaar on the bench alongside Tendai Mtawarira, who has swapped places with Steenkamp.

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WalesThe Springboks completed a successful first match of their season on Saturday against Nick Mallet’s World XV at Newlands but the first proper international action for them starts this weekend as the Castle Lager Incoming Series gets underway with a Test against Wales in Durban on Saturday.

There often is debate and criticism about the make up of squads that Northern Hemisphere countries send on these mid-year tours which take place after their taxing domestic seasons. This year though the two teams due to play against South Africa have got good reason to be fielding teams which are going to be under strength in certain areas. The Test against Scotland falls outside the international window and so their players who ply their trade outside Scotland will not be making the trip over. The tour for Wales has been made much harder due to numerous injuries, no least to inspirational captain Sam Warburton.

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South Africa

Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer was pleased with his team’s 47-13 win over a star-studded World XV at DHL Newlands on Saturday.

The Springboks scored six tries and gained a lot of momentum in the second half of the match, going into the second 40 minutes leading 18-13. This bodes well for next week’s test match against Wales in the Castle Lager Incoming Series.

Meyer warned that the test match in Durban will be another big step-up for his team, as Wales are a settled team after playing together during the Six Nations.

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Morné Steyn

Morné Steyn

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is not worried about the lack of game time flyhalf Morné Steyn recently got in France.

It was widely reported that Steyn had struggled for form at his French club, Stade Francais, which led to him spending the majority of the past season on their bench.

However, Meyer says Steyn did not fall out of favour with the Paris-based club’s coaches.

“The overseas clubs manage our players carefully and most of them have a rotation policy,” Meyer was quoted as saying.

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