If he doesn’t have to, Heyneke Meyer will make no changes to his side for Saturday’s all-important Test against England at Twickenham.
The Springbok coach admitted yesterday the match would determine the success of the tour, where the Boks have already registered wins against Ireland and Scotland. “Yes, it’s a very important game for us.
“It’s been a long season and it’s taken a lot out of the guys.
“Our aim coming here was to win every game and it will be great if we can do that.” The last time the Boks came to Europe and went home undefeated was in 2008.
Should Meyer’s young guns pull it off against a hurting England, who lost to Australia on Saturday, it would leave Meyer with just three defeats in 12 matches for 2012. And the coach is fully aware of the significance of that statistic.
“If we can win this last one it would mean we lost just three times in the year. Now if you compare that to 2009, considered to be one of the best years for the Boks, they lost four times.
“But it’s going to be a big challenge for us. We’re almost a completely new team from the one that played in the (three-Test) series in June ... Bismarck [du Plessis] is out, Beast [Mtawarira] is out, Bryan Habana is not here and other guys too. This is almost a new team, but we have also come a long way since then.”
As fatigued as the players might be, Meyer said it was still important to train this week, but he admitted he would change things up a bit.
“I’m a bit weird when it comes to training ... I’m a bit of a fanatic.
“If you don’t train the message that might get to the youngsters is that we’ve already won. We’re definitely still going to train, but we’ll cut back on the intensity ... have short, sharp sessions. We’ve got a lot of things we need to work on.”
Meyer said he would try stick to the same team that beat Scotland for the Twickenham showdown, but he may be forced to make a few injury-enforced changes, most notably at wing.
JP Pietersen is nursing a groin strain and didn’t train yesterday and will be assessed in the week. Meyer, however, said the Boks were well-covered at wing and he had a number of options.
“Luckily it’s the one area where we are covered. Lwazi [Mvovo] has played there before, Raymond Rhule is here to learn, Lionel Mapoe is an option even though he’s played centre this year and Jaco Taute can also play on the wing, even though he’s played centre too.” Meyer though will wait until tomorrow before deciding on his lineup.
One area that will receive plenty of attention in the coming days will be the Bok scrum. While the set-piece performed strongly against Ireland, winning all their put-ins, they were heavily penalised against Scotland on Saturday, something Meyer pointed to as the reason for the Boks’ second half blow-out at Murrayfield.
“We’ll work hard on it this week and I don’t believe it’ll be a problem on Saturday. But we definitely need to reduce the number of penalties we gave away at the weekend.
“You can’t concede 17 penalties and be on the back foot for so long. Scotland simply kicked the ball down field, they set up the line-out and asked us to make all those tackles. We’ve got to sort that out ... because if you can’t get on to the front foot, you can’t build an innings and you can’t get any momentum.
“And, we’re going to need two good halves of rugby, like we had at Loftus earlier this year (against Australia), to beat England.”