South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer on Monday pronounced himself “very satisfied” with the Springboks’ 31-8 weekend win over Australia, but said they would have to be even more clinical to beat New Zealand in Saturday’s Rugby Championship Test in Soweto.
“It was a good performance, definitely the most satisfying of the year. We were clinical at times, but we’ll need to be even more clinical against the All Blacks and, if the game opens up, probably use the ball even more,” Meyer told reporters in Johannesburg on Monday.
“That was the type of rugby we want to play. This is a very special group of players, they’ve only had seven weeks of coaching and there’s a lot of youth in this team.
“I always knew this first year would be tough, but winning all of our home games was one of our goals,” the new Springbok coach said.
While Meyer, who firmly believes in continuity in selection, would like to choose an unchanged team for the match against the All Blacks, injuries could disrupt the much-improved backline.
Flyhalf Johan Goosen, who added a much-needed spark at flyhalf, is struggling with a bruised heel, while fullback Zane Kirchner’s hip was injured when Wallaby centre Adam Ashley-Cooper knocked himself out on it in tackling the dreadlocked player into the touchline to prevent a try on the stroke of half-time in Pretoria.
“I have a long-term plan and it’s important that I show the players that I believe in them and reward their good form.
“But we kept Johan out of training today. It’s important that he’s 100% on Saturday because, to beat the All Blacks, you have to kick at an 80% success rate and our kicking hasn’t been great this year,” Meyer said.
The coach also praised scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar for doing much to help Goosen in his first start at flyhalf.
“Ruan was great in taking the pressure off Johan. His tactical kicking and his service was awesome and it’s important for us that our scrumhalf plays well,” Meyer said.
The midfield combination of captain Jean de Villiers at inside centre and new cap Jaco Taute outside him is likely to stay as is because Francois Steyn is being sent for surgery on Wednesday.
Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts described the surgery as “the right thing for his long-term career prospects”.
“Frans has quite a few loose pieces of bone in his ankle and every now and then one of them gets lodged in the joint, causing him excruciating pain. As a long-term solution, we’re sending him for surgery to have it cleaned out on Wednesday. Unfortunately that means he will be out for three months and he will miss the end-of-year tour,” Roberts said.
Prop Coenie Oosthuizen, who was initially named on the bench for the Test against Australia after just 35 minutes of action following a neck injury, will see a specialist for a second opinion on his fitness on Tuesday.
“Again, we want to ensure we make the right long-term decision and I’m not happy with his neck, he still has some quite significant symptoms, especially stiffness,” Roberts said.
Flank Jacques Potgieter has also been released due to an abdominal strain and Meyer has called up the uncapped duo of Lions centre/wing Lionel Mapoe and Bulls loose forward Arno Botha.
Meyer said the statistics from Saturday’s win show that territory does still trump possession in terms of value.
“At this level you need to play a tactical game and we only had 45% possession against Australia. Our defence was also the best it’s been the whole year, we made 178 tackles compared to their 109, and we had a 96% completion rate, we only missed seven tackles,” Meyer said.
“Our lineout was also great and I’m very happy with our forwards, especially our loose forwards who are working very well together.”
Meyer said the Springboks’ whole game plan against the All Blacks would be geared towards stopping them from launching their fast-paced, expansive strategy.
“Playing at home, there’s always more pressure to run the ball, but that’s what New Zealand like because it gives them turnovers and they punish you. You will never beat New Zealand at their own game, you’ll never out-run them. You have to put pressure on them, especially at the breakdown, in defence and with your kicking game,” Meyer said.