Heyneke Meyer unvealed the first Springbok lineup of his tenure and this time there were no surprizes.
Springbok team: Zane Kirchner, JP Pietersen, Jean de Villiers (captain), Frans Steyn, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Juandre Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira.
Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Keegan Daniel, Ruan Pienaar, Patrick Lambie, Wynand Olivier.
Thank you Supersport.com for this info.
But it must be said that the fact that there were no surprizes was mainly because we were all prepared for how the team would look by watching Monday’s training session. By reading the comments on the various news sites that reported on this team you will find Zane’s inclusion at full back in place of Lambie and Olivier’s inclusion on the bench to be the objects of many people’s disgust. There were even some bloggers who still haven’t gotten over Brussuw’s exclusion from the squad.
I have said already that I’ll reserve my critisism on Meyer and his selection until the team actually played and I’ll hold myself by that.
But the one thing that I can say about this team is that it is very well balanced and this team can definitely play for the full eighty minutes, something that was especially lacking in most of the SA franchises’ games thus far.
This also states the obvious that Meyer is planning to keep the Poms in their own half with long touch finders and high up and unders and smash the living daylights out of them without compromising too much on attack.
The front row that is selected is aruably the best combination in the country and Oosthuyzen will slot in perfectly later on in the game. It has been hard all season to decide who should wear the backup number two jersy, but Strauss definitely deserves his place ahead of Ralapele and we wont even miss Bissy when this guy comes on.
At lock we had to take what we could get. But at least this is still more than most countries can produce. Kruger has been superb in the lineouts thus far and Etzebeth’s presense will surely be felt by the English. I have my doubts over Flip, but hopefully he can keep his composure and not get a yellow card. I think that, if Kruger doesn’t get injured, Flip will replace Eben for the last sixty because there were some concerns about Etzebeth’s workload at the Stormers being too much. Flip has played next to Kruger for a while now and this will ensure continuety when this replacement is made.
The abovementioned scenario’s will keep a fit and physical tight five on the field for the full eighty minutes which will lay the platform for the rest of the team to shine.
At the loosies Meyer just confirmed what we all expected. He wants big ball carriers in all three positions. Coetzee has really made a name for himself and I hope that he will be able to keep it up. With Alberts and Spies, however, it is more a case of what they can do than what they have been doing. These two, together with Duane Vermeulen, have the potential to be the most destructive runners at loose forward in South Africa. Meyer is notorius for bringing the best out of his charges and it remains to be seen if he will be able to get them close to this level come Saturday. They will be greatly aided by the abovementioned tight five and the loose trio can make it a long afternoon for the Poms.
Keegan Daniel, although lacking the bulk of the three starters, has the destinction of being able to cover all three loose forward positions. Meyer said that he wants a player lacking the physical atributes he wants to have some other ability that separates him from the rest. In Daniel, it is his versitality.
Moving on to the half backs. No real surprizes there as well. Hougard has been the best number nine in 2012 and Morne Steyn’s overall game have improved a lot this year. Together with Hougard they form a formidable combination that can be used in both an expansive as well as a conservative strategy.
From what I have heard, Pienaar has been superb in Europe and he is an excellent option should Hougard get injured or moved to the wing. Patrick Lambie has spent most of the season at fly half and this is where he will be utilised on Saterday. He will surely be able to keep up should the Boks opt for a high tempo finish to the game, especially if he can bring fresh legs to the party after sixty minutes. His kicking at goal so far will also make substituting Morne at an earlier point should he get one of his brain farts again a lot easier on Heyneke than it has been on Frans Ludecke.
If there is one player that the English do not want to play at inside centre it is Francois Steyn. He will challenge their 10/12 channel throughout the afternoon as well as ping them back in their own 22 when he gets the chance. It will be interesting to see how he links up with Jean de Villiers, who will be playing at a somewhat unfamiliar outside centre, but these two have almost 130 tests between them and I’m not too concerned about this. I’m sure that, apart from Fourie, De Villiers would not have wanted anyone else at his inside in his first test as starting captain.
Wynand Olivier must be the Percy Montgomery of this era. Immencely talented, but a few shockers in a Bok jersey together with his blond locks means that he’ll always get some flack from supporters outside his province. Wynand has played some of his best rugby under Meyer and he has played very well this season. He can cover both inside and outside centre, he has created a few tries this season and he can tackle his opponent back. No other centre in the squad can tick these boxes and De Jongh (A player that ticks other boxes, but not the ones Meyer wants) isn’t in the squad. Wynand, like the rest of the bench, can ensure a flawless transition should he replace Steyn or De Villiers (Hopefully not De Villiers).
At wing Meyer went for thesafe option of playing Habana and JP. Both of them are world cup winners and both of them have seldomely let their country down. Although these two are not nearly at the form they were in 2007, they haven’t lost it all as well. If the rest of the team can dominate, then these two will be able to find that spark that was missing all this time. Expect one of them to be replaced by Hougard later on should injuries allow this.
At fullback, to everyone south of Pretoria’s disgust, we have Zane Kirshcner. Zane has been solid for the Bulls and his kicking from the back has been accurate. When you want to play it safe in your first test in charge then there isn’t a lot more that you would want from your full back. The only other players who can provide this would have been Lambie and Frans Steyn. Frans is already deployed at centre and will probably slot in at full back later on. Lambie is regarded by the coaching staff as a flyhalf and will be deployed in the manner I stated above. This means Kirshner is our go to man.
Meyer have recieved a lot of critisism for his selections, but I will definately be surprized if this team loses to the Poms. The above mentioned scenarios are all things that I would have done if I was the coach and if I wasn’t disrupted by injuries. Meyer might choose a different path altogether.
I am impressed, though, with how the bench covers every position perfectly. We do not only have players capable of playing in those positions. All of the versatile players have covered various positions with distinction.