Johannesburg – With little less than two years to the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will use his side's year-end tour to identify players who adapt well to European playing conditions.
While the team was looking to maintain its impressive strike rate this season, Meyer said in Johannesburg on Friday, he also needed to test new combinations on the tour to Wales, Scotland and France.
“There are a few players knocking on the door and we are building the depth of the squad. We are almost in a position where we have two quality players in each position,” Meyer said ahead of the squad’s departure.
“I want to give one or two guys chances in the first two games, but you have to win the first game to build on that.
“In a sense you want to keep continuity and win all three, but you also need these games to see which guys can play in those conditions, so it is a bit of a catch 22.”
Meyer recalled stalwarts lock Bakkies Botha, wing JP Pietersen and centre Jaque Fourie, while he also named a few uncapped players.
Johan Goosen, who only recently made his return to the playing field after a long-term injury lay-off was included in the 32-man squad as the third flyhalf although he was unlikely to get any game time, Meyer said.
Among the uncapped players were Western Province hooker Scarra Ntubeni and scrumhalf Louis Schreuder, who were included at the expense of Chiliboy Ralepelle and Jano Vermaak, respectively.
Meyer said while the two players would be holding tackling bags for most of the tour, he wanted them to familiarise themselves with the Springbok structures.
“This is a learning curve for them. Your third hooker and your third nine barely get game time and I want to give youngsters the chance to see what they can do,” he said.
“I’ve said to him (Ntubeni) 'you are here to learn – relax and learn from two of probably the best hookers in the world'.”
Meyer said the inclusion of Botha, Pietersen and Fourie was a logical decision given the quality the players have displayed in the past.
It will be Botha's and Fourie’s first involvement with the Springboks since the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, while Pietersen was back in the squad for the first time this year.
“I believe coaching is overrated. A world class player is a world class player and more players make coaches than the other way around.
“If you pick a world class player, he will produce. So, in a sense, they don’t understand the defensive and attacking systems but the way the game is moving, especially in the backs, 80 percent of the tries come from broken field.”
Meyer said the trio’s eagerness to make their return for the Springboks assisted him in his decision to take them on tour.
The Springboks kick-off their European tour against Wales, the Six Nations champions, at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff next Saturday.
They play Scotland a week later in Edinburgh and end their tour against France on November 23 in Paris. – Sapa