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Ken Borland


Meyer set to rely on forwards to beat Australia

Posted on September 05, 2012 by Ken

 

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is on the back foot and is likely to rely on his forward pack to change their fortunes against Australia this weekend.

As former Springbok coach Jake White pointed out last week, coaches under pressure tend to go back to what they know, and Meyer will target Australia up front in Perth on Saturday.

That means the same backline which failed to impress against Argentina will probably be running out on to the field, but with one significant change.

Ruan Pienaar has sat bench for all five Tests of the Meyer reign, but looks set to get his big chance as the starting scrumhalf on Saturday.

Francois Hougaard, for all his natural talent, has looked hesitant as the vital link between forwards and backs, a round peg in the square hole of Meyer’s game plan. He has not been helped by a pack that has struggled to give him front-foot ball, but his erratic service to Morne Steyn and the inaccuracy of his kicking have also spread the lack of momentum down the backline.

It’s not all bad news for Hougaard, however, as Meyer does fancy the X-factor he brings to the game and is likely to start him on the left wing, where his Springbok career began so spectacularly in 2010. The 24-year-old will hope the rainy weather in Perth clears up and it is a dry day on Saturday that will suit his running skills.

But it is the Springbok pack that will have to rule the night at Subiaco if South Africa are to prevent the Wallabies from claiming a record fifth straight win against them.

These are dark times for the much-vaunted strength of Springbok rugby, with Bismarck du Plessis, Schalk Burger, Juan Smith, Gurthro Steenkamp, Pierre Spies and Chiliboy Ralepelle all out injured and Bakkies Botha and Ryan Kankowski unavailable. Plus the new boys in the Rugby Championship, Argentina, matched them up front and left them scratching their heads in search of answers.

Meyer’s answer is to go back to a strength that destroyed all comers in 2007 and 2009 – the lineout. Of course, the career of the kingpin of that set-piece, the talismanic Victor Matfield, is now over, but the Springbok coach has made it clear he wants to attack the Wallabies at source, at the set-pieces.

Duane Vermeulen, as destructive a player you can get when fully fit, is set to finally make his Springbok debut at eighthman and it could coincide neatly with a whole Stormers lineout being chosen.

With doubts over hooker Adriaan Strauss’s knee – he hasn’t trained all week – Tiaan Liebenberg could make his first start in the number two jersey, Eben Etzebeth has impressed at number four and that might just earn Andries Bekker, who had no positive impact in Mendoza, a reprieve at five.

“Duane is a specialist number eight and is good in the lineout. Against Argentina, we gave them easy ball at the back of the lineout because we didn’t have a jumper there. Duane also knows Bekker, Etzebeth and Liebenberg well,” Meyer said.

With Vermeulen coming in at eight, there should be a further change in the loose trio with Willem Alberts shifting to number seven in place of Jacques Potgieter, who was a disappointment against the Pumas.

Meyer controversially found no place in the touring squad for Keegan Daniel, who enjoyed a top-class SuperRugby campaign for the Sharks and is a dynamic, linking, offloading type of player. The coach had also previously indicated that a “horses-for-courses” selection policy should get Daniel a call-up against the Wallabies.

“Keegan was unlucky as I felt he could have come on against Australia because they fit his game plan more. But we don’t have a classical number eight at the moment with Pierre Spies and Ryan Kankowski out and as I said, Duane provides us with another lineout jumper,” Meyer explained.

But why not a spot on the bench again for Daniel?

Meyer will instead go for a fetcher in Francois Louw, a well-travelled flank who is currently enjoying a stint with Bath in England.

“On the bench, I have to decide between an impact player or a specialist openside flank. If the referee is going to allow stealing of the ball at the rucks [Saturday’s official is Nigel Owens, a Welshman known to be more lenient at the breakdown], then I want to have a specialist openside,” Meyer said before the team departed for Australia.

But it’s not a fetcher stealing the opposition ball that the Springboks need most. It is better protection of their own ball at the rucks and for that to happen, the pack as a whole need to show more fire in the belly when it comes to clearing out.

To ensure an 80-minute effort up front, Meyer could well go for a 5-2 split on the bench with either two locks or two loose forwards amongst the reserves.

While their contributions in open play left much to be desired in Mendoza, the scrummaging is not broke so Meyer is unlikely to make changes in the front row, unless Strauss cannot play of course.

If Liebenberg has to start, then the uncapped Craig Burden will be on the bench and he is a tremendous force in broken play, which could add some much-needed spark on attack.

Pat Lambie, who has frustratingly not seen any action off the bench in the last two games, and exciting centre Juan de Jongh will probably be the backline substitutes.

Likely Springbok team: 15-Zane Kirchner, 14-Bryan Habana, 13-Jean de Villiers, 12-Francois Steyn, 11-Francois Hougaard, 10-Morne Steyn, 9-Ruan Pienaar, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Willem Alberts, 6-Marcell Coetzee, 5-Andries Bekker, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Adriaan Strauss/Tiaan Liebenberg, 1-Tendai Mtawarira. Bench- 16-Tiaan Liebenberg/Craig Burden, 17-Pat Cilliers, 18-Flip van der Merwe, 19-Juandre Kruger/Jacques Potgieter, 20-Francois Louw, 21-Pat Lambie, 22-Juan de Jongh.

 

 

 

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