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Jacques van der Westhuyzen
WILL it be Elton Jantjies or Pat Lambie in the No10 jersey against Ireland here on Saturday? Or will Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer hand veteran flyhalf Morné Steyn another start?
The Bok boss has said he has made up his mind who will play the role of Bok “quarter-back” at the Aviva Stadium, but he’s not letting anyone know just yet the identity of his chosen man. And, admits Meyer, picking a flyhalf to play for South Africa at the moment is one of the toughest decisions he has to make.
Currently Meyer has three No10s on tour – Jantjies, Lambie and Steyn – while Johan Goosen is at home recovering from a knee injury.
So who’s it going to be on Saturday? “I know Morné will be back to his best, but I also need to see who the next guy is in line (after Goosen),” said Meyer here in a sunny Dublin yesterday. “I’ve got a lot of respect for the Irish so you also don’t want to go out there and simply experiment. It’s a Catch-22 for me.”
But Meyer said he would much rather be in his current position than not have options at flyhalf. “We’re really blessed at No10 ... the only thing is the guys are so young. Only Morné is a little older with some experience.
“Each guy brings his own strengths and weaknesses to the Bok fold and it’s my job to help fix those weaknesses. Elton, Pat and Johan are three great flyhalves ... probably the best young No10s our country has produced in over 10 years, but they’re still very raw. What I want from Elton and Pat on this tour is to show me they can play the conditions, that they can be tactically astute, the equal of American football’s ‘quarter-back’ ... I know they’re great runners of the ball, but they need to control games in all conditions.”
Meyer though has challenged every single member of his squad to rise above the injuries that have hit the Boks and show him they can play in conditions they’re not familiar with. “I enjoy touring and I want the players to enjoy it as well ... it’s another chance for us to really mould as a team.
“What I want from the guys is to commit to excellence, to commit to the work ethic of the team and to make sure we are thoroughly prepared for what we’re going to be up against in the next three weeks,” said a confident Meyer.
“I want to see who can stand up and play well away from home now. The next three weeks is the final hurdle for the players to show me they want to be a part of the side going forward ... I really don’t want to be chopping and changing next season.”
Meyer said he was confident of having a fully fit squad to pick from tomorrow. This after captain Jean de Villiers hurt a hamstring a few weeks ago and there was some doubt over the readiness of Adriaan Strauss and Francois Louw. The whole squad, however, seem to be ready for battle.
“We’re building Jean up but I’m happy with his progress so far,” said Bok team doctor Craig Roberts on centre De Villiers.
Meyer said it would be tough to pick his time now. “All the guys have just come off Currie Cup duty so it’s another big step up again. I know it’s been a long season, but I want guys in my team who want to play for South Africa ... someone who’s prepared to just carry tackle bags, as Schalk Brits said he’d do when I called him.
“There are no excuses for us in the next three weeks ... you have to deliver when you put that green and gold jersey on.”