fast little loans
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has been giving Argentina a lot of praise since his team limped to a 16-16 draw in Mendoza two weeks ago.
He has been at pains to point out that Argentina “are a much better side than what people believe”, but they are far from being even close to the level of the Springboks, Wallabies and most definitely the All Blacks.
Only maybe France can really compete with the top-three nations. That is supposed to be the gulf between them and the rest of the world.
But the Boks’ lucky escape against Los Pumas will hopefully have shook Meyer sufficiently for him to realise his team need to add much more to their game if they want to win the Rugby Championship.
Yes, he is missing several experienced players due to injury and others who are retired or unavailable as they play overseas, but the Bok show needs to go on. There are more than enough quality players in South Africa to field a highly competitive Springbok team – they have proven that they are good enough in Super Rugby.
Selection is a subjective thing, and Meyer is ignoring calls to axe the likes of Zane Kirchner, Morné Steyn and Francois Hougaard. All three are Bulls players, and are not at their best.
The fact that Meyer hasn’t been scared to drop players from other provinces such as Lwazi Mvovo, Andries Bekker and Keegan Daniel, as well as failing to give opportunities to Elton Jantjies and Siya Kolisi before he was injured, won’t have endeared him to people outside of Pretoria.
Add in a Bulls-heavy management team, and it just increases the pressure on Meyer. And he hasn’t even lost a Test yet! The Boks still have an unbeaten record of four wins and a draw under Meyer, and of course, he has every right to pick any player that he wants.
But he will be judged by results and the performances of the team, and he acknowledges that the Boks have not played well in 2012. There have been mitigating circumstances for that, but the fact that South Africa are playing a predictable style of rugby that is easy to counter will just heap further pressure on to Meyer.
He is a nervous man at the best of times, and we’ve all seen him bellowing into that walkie-talkie during games. “I take it very personally,” he said this week.
But the coach and the players have a great chance to turn it all around tomorrow against the Wallabies at Patersons Stadium (formerly Subiaco Oval). If the Boks come out and play with purpose and energy for a change, and not cower into a corner like they did in Mendoza if Australia pitch up for a physical battle; try to be proactive with their backline instead of hoping for the Wallabies to make mistakes; and Morné Steyn can kick his goals, then they will be on the right track that Meyer often refers to.
“I’m a guy who believes in knowing where we want to go. We want to be the best team in the world, and we are far from that yet. We have many inexperienced players in the team who need to prove themselves and put up their hands,” the Bok coach said this week.
“We believe that New Zealand is the best team and Australia are just, just off the pace probably. We want to be the best team, and we want to go out there and see where we stand. We know that it’s going to be very tough, and they are the type of team that can punish you. We want to look at our own play, and we’ve got our own goals in the next four years.”
Meyer has taken a few good steps forward this week with some of his selections, most notably introducing Duane Vermeulen at No 8 and Ruan Pienaar at scrumhalf. Lwazi Mvovo must be wondering what he did to be dropped, but there is no denying that Francois Hougaard can be as lethal an operator at wing with ball-in-hand.
Pienaar must surely look to increase the Boks’ tempo on attack, and his boot will also be an extra option in defence.
Vermeulen is the man who needs to take the game to the Wallabies by driving their ball-carriers back in the tackle and putting in those powerful and effective surges around the fringes.
The Bok coach has stuck with his players, and hopefully given them greater scope to make split-second decisions on the field instead of pre-determined ones. But it is also up to them to repay the faith that Meyer has shown.
Wallabies: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Dom Shipperley, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Berrick Barnes, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia (capt), 8 Radike Samo, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Nathan Sharpe, 4 Sitaleki Timani, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Benn Robinson. Bench: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 James Slipper, 18 Scott Higginbotham, 19 Liam Gill, 20 Nick Phipps, 21 Mike Harris, 22 Anthony Faingaa.
Springboks: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers (capt), 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira. Bench: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Francois Louw, 20 Johan Goosen, 21 Lwazi Mvovo, 22 Pat Lambie.
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales). Kickoff: 12.30pm (SA time).
TV: M-Net/SS1/SS HD1. – Cape Times