Having drawn with Argentina and lost to Australia and New Zealand on the road in their last three Rugby Championship matches, the Springboks take on the Wallabies at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday in a last-ditch effort to stay in contention to win the competition.
But any hopes Meyer may have had of freshening up his team with new faces could be stymied by injuries, most notably to centre Francois Steyn and up-and-coming flyhalf Johan Goosen.
“We had three tough away games in a row, the only team to have that, so it’s great to be back at home and the players are a lot more relaxed. I wanted to go hard with the full squad of 30 at training today, but we’ve picked up lots of little untimely injuries,” Meyer told journalists at Loftus Versfeld on Monday.
Steyn rolled his ankle and was on crutches as the team practised at one of their spiritual homes on Monday afternoon, but team doctor Craig Roberts said x-rays were clear and a decision on the 25-year-old World Cup winner’s availability will only be made on Tuesday or Wednesday.
Goosen has a bruised heel but took part in some training, albeit barefoot.
Incumbent flyhalf Morne Steyn missed 11 points with wayward kicks when South Africa lost 11-21 to the All Blacks in Dunedin on September 15 and has failed to gel with his backline. When Goosen has come off the bench to replace him in the last two tests, for half-an-hour in total, he has looked the part and general opinion in the republic is that the 20-year-old should start instead of Morne Steyn against the Wallabies on Saturday.
But Goosen’s niggle and the possibility that the Springboks will lose 53 caps worth of experience at inside centre if Francois Steyn cannot play could delay what seems an inevitable changing of the guard.
“You obviously want to give players a break when they are fatigued, but if I hadn’t called Morne Steyn into the test squad then he would play Currie Cup for the Bulls. The pressure won’t go away for him, the Bulls are also under pressure. It’s best to keep him involved with us, he’s taken a lot of criticism but you’re still working with a human being and I can see that he is himself again back at home,” Meyer said.
“I’m not just going to throw Morne away, he just kicked badly and Johan is not 100% and I’ve been bringing him through slowly. If I bowed to public pressure, then I would change the team every week.
“You can’t just throw a whole bunch of 20-year-olds in against the Wallabies and All Blacks, they’ll be slaughtered, and I won’t push anyone unless they are 100% ready,” the coach added.
Meyer said he was confident his team could take the spoils against Australia, even though the Wallabies squeezed home 26-19 in Perth on September 8, with the Springboks failing to turn pressure into points, especially in the first half.
“It will definitely be different playing Australia here compared to Perth, where we should have won. In the past we’ve done well against them at home and I have a good feeling about this team, it’s definitely developing, there’s a great vibe,” Meyer said.
The other Springboks who are dogged by injury niggles are prop Coenie Oosthuizen (general stiffness), flank Jacques Potgieter (groin), wing Lwazi Mvovo (hamstring) and lock Flip van der Merwe (calf).