Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Wednesday made three changes to the pack for this Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test against Argentina, while naming an unchanged backline from last weekend.
In a loose trio re-shuffle, Willem Alberts moves from blindside flank to eighthman in place of Keegan Daniel, who drops to the bench, while Jacques Potgieter comes into the No 7 jersey.
Alberts has previously played at No 8, with Meyer opting to select a more physically imposing back row for this match, which lends itself to the Boks’ game plan blueprint based around direct, physical rugby and gainline dominance.
“I thought Argentina had a very good defence in the first Test, so it’s important to now have two big ball-carriers in Willem and Jacques,” Meyer explained.
“I was a bit worried about not having enough ball-carriers last weekend. And although Willem is not an out-and-out No 8, he has played there before and Jacques will give us another ball-carrying option.
“I thought Keegan did well last Saturday, but it was just a horses for courses decision because I feel that at this stage we need to stop Argentina on the gainline, and get more gainline dominance ourselves.”
The other change to the pack was the expected one as Adriaan Strauss replaces the injured Bismarck du Plessis and takes over the vice-captaincy, with Tiaan Liebenberg coming on to the bench.
Wednesday’s team announcement had to be postponed by an hour after the Springboks were delayed returning from a morning training session, at which Andries Bekker and Bryan Habana successfully came through fitness tests to be named in the starting line-up.
The Stormers duo both suffered ankle injuries last weekend, and considering that the Boks have endured a torrid run of bad luck on the injury front this season, Meyer said it was a significant double dose of good news to have Habana and Bekker available.
“At one point I was thinking of going with a five-two (forward to backs) split on the bench and starting with (Francois) Hougaard on the wing, because it looked like Bryan wasn’t going to make it, but it’s a great relief to be able to select the same backline and enjoy some sort of continuity.”
Meanwhile, Argentina suffered a major injury blow on Wednesday when star flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez was ruled out of this weekend’s Test with a groin injury.
Pumas coach Santiago Phelan has yet to name Hernandez’s replacement, but it could result in a backline re-shuffle with Santiago Fernandez possibly moving to flyhalf, Martin Rodriguez to centre and Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino to fullback.
Argentina’s squad of 26 that did duty in Cape Town were set to fly to Mendoza on Thursday.
“One of the aspects in which we failed to dominate against SA was field position – they were very good at getting out of their own half,” Phelan said. “We also gave away too many penalties.” – The Mercury