The Boks will be playing there last match of this gruelling season against the team that we started to show decline, England. In the June tests at home the first test was a convincing thrashing of the Roses. The second test Was less convincing but still looked good. In the third test the wheels started coming off and cracks were starting to show in what was looking like a promising start under Meyer.
Ever since then dubious selection like Jacques Potgieter and Arno Botha, the constant faith shown in Morné Steyn, Zane Kirchner, Jean de Villiers and Francois Hougaard, and the obvious snubs at players like Lwazi Mvovo, Elton Jantjies, Juan de Jongh and Patrick Lambie have plagued Meyer through the rest of his tenure. The eye of the public was firmly placed on the man and his every move questioned with scepticism.
Yes Meyer has had a tough time, he should have expected no less but he has sorely let the public down. I read an article on Rugby365 yesterday about how Meyer was throwing egg on the public’s face by telling Lambie to play to his strengths. What a load of bollocks. The public have been baying for a more attack orientated game and by asking Lambie to now play his style and not the one asked is nothing more than a knee jerk reaction to public opinion.
Meyer did the same when he finally called in a specialised “fetcher” in the form of Louw because trying to turn Marcell Coetzee into one was not working. Not only couldn’t we win ball on the ground it was obviously also hurting the player as his game overall started taking a knock. Back then there was also calls from the public and media alike to include a fetcher, and look how Louw has responded. Now our forwards look unstoppable.
Wasn’t Hougaard’s move to wing nothing more than a knee jerk reaction to public pressure?
One thing is certain through all this and it is that slowly but surely Meyer seems to be walking in the right direction.
But I still have one point of criticism to make against Meyer and it involves this end of year tour. Meyer, in my opinion hasn’t done enough to bring through the youngsters and has failed to identify key areas of personal that are almost at their sell-by date.
Lets start with the front row. Everyone knows and agrees that Beast, Bismarck and Jannie are the best we have and will be for some time. However what bother me is the backup. On the loosehead side we are pretty much covered with the like of Heinke van der Merwe, Guthro Steenkamp and JC Janse van Rensburg.
At hooker we have Adriaan Strauss, but after him who do we have? Schalk Brits is no spring chicken. Tiaan Liebenberg is also on the wrong side of 20 and Chiliboy is once again a tackle bag specialist. Why have no young hookers been identified and taken on tour?
Same thing with the tighthead side. We have Pat Cilliers who looks like a great replacement yet they picked CJ ahead of him and we suffered for it. Why show no trust in a man who has given you no reason not to. Meyer has obviously identified Frans Malherbe as one for the future yet left him at home instead of gaining some touring experience.
Our Lock reserves are also thin yet we have plenty of young guns coming through who can make a statement like Etsebeth… well probably not as massive a statement but a statement nonetheless. Andries Bekker isn’t that young and prone to injury plus all the other guys picked are in their twilight years.
At loose forward we have a plethora of talent. This country always has yet Meyer seems to be picking favourites over those that actually perform. Jacques Potgieter and Arno Botha are cases in point. Jacques hardly played Super Rugby this year yet got picked even when injured and Arno Botha has had a mediocre showing at the Bulls during the Currie Cup so how does he qualify. Even playing in a less “demanding” tournament he looked average. Why did CJ Stander leave when he has produced fine performances? Kolisi was given the cold shoulder and players like Kankowski and Daniel were hardly given chances even though they played the best out of almost everyone.
At scrumhalf we also have a problem. Ruan is the incumbent and has a cool head but he is also approaching his twilight. Hougaard hasn’t measured up but I’m sure he will again soon. But why is someone like Vermaak picked? He hasn’t played rugby to prove he is the second or third best option and he is also no spring chicken. Why not take a younger chap with like Reinach or Groom? This tour exposure would have been vital for their growth and increased our depth at 9.
At flyhalf we have been all sixes and sevens. At least here the young guys have had exposure but none has done enough to say they are the future. I appreciate the fact that Meyer is giving Lambie time but someone like Jantjies should have also benefited, even if only for 10 or 15 minutes per game.
At inside centre we have a problem. Jean de Villiers is near the end of the road and probably only has a year left in him, two at a stretch. Yes Frans Steyn has been identified as his replacement but who is there after Steyn? Why has Meyer not identified a third or even a fourth choice? Why was someone like Whitehead not taken, or Francois Venter or Jan Serfontein? At outside centre why was someone like Paul Jordaan not taken with? Taute can play 13 but is not a great choice.
At wing we have enough young cover but Meyer doesn’t seem t be doing enough to give them exposure. He picks Hougaard at 11 where he says he doesn’t want to be at the expense of players like Mvovo and Rhule who could benefit from game time.
At fullback a lot of soul searching also needs to be done. Yes Kirchner has been solid but neither is he anything to write home about. And if Taute is the future why is he not getting a go at fullback? And why have younger possibilities not been considered as backup? Lambie can play there yes but his future seems to be written in flyhalf stone. Frans Steyn can also play there but likewise he seems to be our first choice 12. So why have no other possibilities been discussed or brought on tour if for nothing else than to learn?
This also brings me to my point on captain. Jean de Villiers has been retaining his starting berth for he is captain. But there does not seem to be a search for an alternative. Who will captain the Boks in Jean’s place? Adriaan Strauss seems a likely candidate but will be second fiddle to Bismarck. Is enough being done to recognise a new leader or are they banking on Jean living forever?