Edinburgh - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will hand Western Province’s Currie Cup final hero, Juan de Jongh, a rare Test start against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday - and he could also surprise by opting to rest Jean de Villiers for the match.
Meyer said the 24-year-old De Jongh would come into the side in midfield, at either inside or outside centre, replacing either Jaco Taute or De Villiers.
The Bok boss said he still had to make up his mind about whether to give De Villiers a break, considering that he had come into the tour on the back of a four-week layoff because of a hamstring injury. It would be De Jongh’s fifth start, having played off the bench on seven other occasions.
“Juan’s been knocking on the door for some time. He’s a good defender, and it’s time he got a run,” said Meyer on Monday. “I’d like to see what he can do at 13, but, having said that, I thought Jaco Taute enjoyed his best Test to date (against Ireland). I still have to see whether he comes in for Jaco or Jean... Jean’s been struggling with injury all year.”
De Villiers seemed to come through last Saturday’s Ireland game unscathed and, having had a good break before this tour, it is unlikely Meyer will change his captain now - especially as his squad have been hard hit with injuries already. De Villiers missing out would mean Meyer would have to announce a new captain, probably Adriaan Strauss.
So, if De Villiers teams up with De Jongh in midfield, there may be an opening for Taute to play at fullback in place of the very steady Zane Kirchner.
“I still think 15 is Jaco’s best position, and I’d like to see him play there more often,” Meyer said. “I’m not going to be making too many changes, though. This is a young team, and I want to keep the continuity as much as possible. I also don’t want to hand Test caps out freely. Everyone must deserve it.”
Pat Lambie is set to remain at pivot, with the Bok coach saying “he did some great things against Ireland”, while the pack is to remain unchanged. Meyer, though, is set to change a few players on the bench, one of them being Gurthrö Steenkamp, who’s almost sure to come in for Heinke van der Merwe.
Steenkamp missed out on selection last week because of a rib injury, but is back in training this week. Elton Jantjies could also come on to the bench ahead of Morné Steyn.
Meyer said he was pleased his front-row problems had been sorted out now that he has a replacement for Tendai Mtawarira and Steenkamp is back to full fitness. Mtawarira returned to South Africa on Monday to undergo a minor procedure to correct a heart problem. The Sharks prop, who withdrew from the Bok team hours before last Saturday’s Test against Ireland, will have the small operation done in Cape Town later this week.
“Beast’s career and life are in no danger... he had the same problems earlier this year, and he then also had a procedure done. Obviously, it didn’t correct the problem fully,” said Bok team doctor Craig Roberts.
“We want to cure this thing forever, and once the procedure’s done, Beast will need about five weeks’ rest. So, after discussing it with him, it was decided he return home to be with his family. Again, it’s not life-threatening, and he could really have played this weekend.”
Western Province prop Frans Malherbe has joined the Boks in place of Mtawarira.
While Meyer now has six props to pick from, Jannie du Plessis is nursing an ankle strain and could be a doubt for this weekend.
Boks climb up the IRB rankings:
The Springboks climbed one position to second in the latest IRB world rankings, released on Monday. They beat Ireland 16-12 in Dublin on Saturday. World champions New Zealand remained in top spot, more than seven points clear of the Boks. Australia dropped to third after a 33-6 loss to France, who leapfrogged England into fourth position.
Cape Times and Sapa