Deja vu for Meyer

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Steve Haag Gallo Images

Heyneke Meyer during the Springbok team announcement at Garden Court Kings Beach in Port Elizabeth. Photo: Steve Haag

Port Elizabeth - Heyneke Meyer's Springboks have come a long way since they drew their third and final Test against England at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth in June 2012.

It was the mentor's first series victory and his first in charge with little time to instil his ethos into the national side.

Three years later at the same venue, Meyer finds himself in a similar position as his side goes into battle against Scotland with a host of debutantes and untried combinations.

Meyer had been preaching continuity for the last three years and would be slightly uneasy about what to expect from his inexperienced charges.

Seven of the European-based players - the core of the Springboks - had been released to their clubs forcing Meyer to introduce new blood.

“There are 13 changes which are not ideal, I believe you have to have some kind of continuity, but it was always the plan (to make wholesale changes),” Meyer said in the build-up to the Test.

“It is the first time we will be playing a fourth Test (during the June internationals) which is what we will face at the World Cup.”

The risk factor in the Bok side lay in the inexperienced bench with four-uncapped players named there.

Meyer would be hoping his run-on side bagged the victory before he needed to ring the changes and not leave that responsibility to his replacements.

“When I went for a bigger squad I received a lot of criticism but I believe it was the right thing to do,” Meyer said.

“We would have given a lot guys chances in this game, but probably not as many. I am really excited about this team, and a lot of the youngsters will get an opportunity to show me where they stand.”

Springbok captain Victor Matfield on Friday said while the team was brimming with debutantes nothing less than the best would be expected of the side on Saturday.

“It is not a young Springbok side going out on Saturday, it is the Springbok side. So there is responsibility on each and everyone going onto the field and they have to go out and perform,” Matfield said.

“They've been in the system for four weeks and now they have to show what they can do.”

To the pessimists, the many changes could spell danger and threaten Meyer's winning percentage, but it was also an opportunity to grow the squad depth ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.

The greatest responsibility would rest on the shoulders of the youngest member of the team, Handre Pollard, making his senior debut.

The 20-year-old had graduated from the SA Under-20 side after three years as a loyal and prominent servant at the Junior World Championship.

Only a week after representing the country at the JWC final against England in New Zealand, he had been thrust into the limelight to stake a claim for the Springboks.

Playing with a maturity that belied his young age, Pollard could be taking his first steps towards winning a place in next year's world cup squad.

While incumbent flyhalf Morne Steyn seemed to have cemented his place, Meyer was yet to find an understudy.

The youngster's stellar rise to prominence had been predicted and it would not be unreasonable to suggest Pollard could become South Africa's flyhalf at the rugby showpiece.

Speaking of the flyhalf prodigy, Matfield believed Pollard had the right temperament to play at international level.

“Handre is a very mature guy. He will probably be nervous but you will never see it from him,” Matfield said.

“He is a confident person and he has Jan Serfontein, who he played with at the SA Under-20s and Fourie du Preez on his inside with a lot experience.

“It is a big day for him and I hope he comes through with distinction. I think he is a brilliant player that could in future mean a lot to South Africa.”

Sapa


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