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Ken Borland



Two No.4 locks for Springboks against physical Samoans 0

Posted on February 19, 2016 by Ken

 

The Springboks will go into their quadrangular series final against the physical Samoans with two number-four locks in partnership in the middle row, after coach Heyneke Meyer named Flip van der Merwe in the number-five jersey on Wednesday.

Van der Merwe replaces his Bulls partner Juandre Kruger, a more traditional number-five lock, and Meyer said the reason for the change was because “I want to see if Eben and Flip can play together because we’re very thin at number five.”

Kruger, who was a mobile presence last weekend against Scotland, is of course off to chase the euro in France later this year, so that might also have something to do with Meyer’s decision.

Franco van der Merwe, who has run the Sharks lineout with aplomb this year, is also in the squad and if Meyer was really desperate to test his depth at number five, he would surely have given the experienced former Lions star a run.

It seems probable that the real reason for Flip van der Merwe’s selection is that Meyer wants to target the collisions, where Scotland showed them up last weekend, against a team that is especially combative and has great physical presence in that area. If the Springboks lose the collisions, then they could be condemned to chasing after the ball against a side that thrives on running rugby when they’re on the front foot.

The 28-year-old may not have played in the middle of the lineout since his junior days, but he was unfazed by the switch.

“I’ll be doing the same work at lineout time, it doesn’t matter if you’re four or five, it’s just a different number on your back. The breakdown will also be very important and we’re working hard on trying to improve that,” Flip van der Merwe said.

There are potentially two changes to the loose trio as well, with Marcell Coetzee making way for Francois Louw on the open side and Willem Alberts set to return on the blind side. The Sharks battering ram has been bracketed with Siya Kolisi, who really took his chance to shine last week in Nelspruit, but the medical staff are confident Alberts will be fit to play, meaning the Stormers rookie will start on the bench again.

While Alberts will add even more oomph to the Springboks when it comes to the collisions, the way Louw is able to read and adapt to referee’s interpretations when it comes to turnover ball, means South Africa should be much more effective at the breakdowns than they were last weekend against Scotland.

“Scotland deserve a lot of credit for playing on the off-sides line, but Francois Louw has much more knowledge of Northern Hemisphere referees and he is a recognised open-side flank. When he came into the team last year, suddenly he brought something different to our game in terms of ball-stealing. He’s used to those Northern Hemisphere interpretations and he shows how to adapt to the referee,” Meyer said.

The all-round contribution of Louw also extends to ball-carrying and lineout work, where the Springboks should dominate the Samoans even without a specialist number five jumper.

The scrums are the one set-piece where Samoa have improved tremendously in recent times and the 120kg bulk of Van der Merwe in the second row will obviously help the Springbok scrum.

The fitness of Jean de Villiers is still not certain and he has been bracketed at inside centre with Jan Serfontein, with hooker Adriaan Strauss set to take over the reins if necessary and become the 55th Test captain of the Springboks.

“Jean has had a scan of his sternum and there’s nothing torn or broken and he’s feeling much better today. There’s not as much pain or discomfort,” Meyer said.

Wednesday’s selection means Meyer has used just 27 players (28 if De Villiers is unavailable and Juan de Jongh gets game time) through the three-match series, but the Springbok coach said he was happy with the amount of experimentation he has done ahead of the Rugby Championship.

“I feel I’ve played a lot of new guys. I’ve stuck with Willie le Roux when I could have played Zane Kirchner, there’s JJ Engelbrecht and Jano Vermaak, Bjorn Basson had never started for me before, Siya Kolisi, Arno Botha, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen earned just his second cap, Piet van Zyl and Jan Serfontein. I know what the rest of the players can do from the end-of-year tour and I feel like we now have a good squad of 30 players,” Meyer said.

Team: 15-Willie le Roux, 14-Bryan Habana, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Jean de Villiers/Jan Serfontein, 11-Bjorn Basson, 10-Morne Steyn, 9-Ruan Pienaar, 8-Pierre Spies, 7-Willem Alberts/Siya Kolisi, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Flip van der Merwe, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16-Bismarck du Plessis, 17-Trevor Nyakane, 18-Coenie Oosthuizen, 19-Juandre Kruger, 20-Siya Kolisi/Marcell Coetzee, 21-Piet van Zyl, 22-Pat Lambie, 23-Jan Serfontein/Juan de Jongh.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-06-20-changes-to-bok-squad-for-physical-game-against-samoans/#.VscUn_l97IU

Flip van der Merwe inexplicably withdraws from Springbok selection scramble 0

Posted on May 05, 2015 by Ken

 

South African rugby players are normally like crayfish scrambling to get out of a bucket when it comes to fighting for a place in the Springbok squad in a World Cup year, which makes lock Flip van der Merwe’s decision to not make himself available for international rugby this year all the more inexplicable.

It’s unusual for South African rugby to be short of locks but Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer admitted on Monday that the second row is one of the areas he is most concerned about, Van der Merwe’s unavailability only making the situation worse.

Although Meyer revealed the Bulls lock’s shock decision, he was not at liberty to reveal the reasons for it, save that they are personal.

“Locks are a worry because you need specialists. If I had to pick the World Cup squad today we’d be in trouble – Eben Etzebeth has just recovered from injury and Pieter-Steph du Toit, Victor Matfield and Lood de Jager have all been injured recently as well,” Meyer said.

Having announced his decision to join French club Clermont at the end of this season, Van der Merwe has lost his Springbok contract, which could place him in the same awkward position as Francois Steyn when it comes to image rights.

Four of the six locks who attended the Springbok camp session at St Peter’s College on Monday have injury problems – Ruan Botha, De Jager, Du Toit and Matfield – and they largely sat out training.

While Meyer said centre (due to injuries) was also a worrying position, he said the toughest decisions he would have to make revolved around which loose forwards to take to the World Cup.

“The main difficulty is the loose forwards. We can only choose a 31-man squad and nine of those players have to be front-row forwards. So that means you either choose four locks and five loose-forwards, which most teams do, or three locks and six loose forwards.

“So I have to pick five players from 12-15 world-class loose forwards, which is going to be very difficult. Pierre Spies is a great player who’s been injured for two years so it’s been tough for him and he could still play better. There’s Jaco Kriel, who was brilliant against the Bulls, and Heinrich Brussow, so there’s a lot of competition. Willem Alberts has played two great games for the Sharks … “ Meyer explained.

The Springbok coach confirmed that he is likely to stick with the cadres he has been using for the last three years for the World Cup, although there is always room for the odd bolter to force his way into his plans this year.

“We’ve done a lot of research and spoken to the different coaches who have won the World Cup and the one thing they all say is to stick to what has worked for you. You don’t want to be too predictable though because the game changes every six months so you have to try new things, but you don’t want to change too much.

“Current form is important, but there are guys who have performed over several years, I’ve had three years to see how they perform under pressure. Test rugby is totally different to Super Rugby, especially in the Northern Hemisphere at the breakdowns and with the referees.

“I have some sort of idea of my first XV, but there are always guys who come in late, someone like Jesse Kriel is very close to selection. But it’s very difficult for players to peak from February to October, there are just too many games, and quality players don’t become bad overnight. There’s still time to get guys right, world-class players who have proven themselves …” Meyer said.

One of those players who will be given every opportunity to prove his fitness for the World Cup is captain Jean de Villiers, who has been laid low since November with a serious knee injury.

Team doctor Craig Roberts said De Villiers is “running very hard” at the moment and they are very happy with his progress.

Roberts added, however, that they are looking to provide some games for the centre to play before the World Cup in order to find his form and confidence.

 

Defeat v Lions epitomised season – Bulls captain 0

Posted on June 03, 2014 by Ken

Stokkies Hanekom on the charge

Bulls captain Flip van der Merwe says the 32-21 defeat at the hands of the Lions in their Super Rugby match at Ellis Park on Saturday night epitomised the three-time champions’ season that now looks likely to end without a playoffs place.

“It summed up our season, there were a lot of faults at crucial times. We were definitely in the game, we played some good rugby but the Lions played Bulls rugby against us very well,” Van der Merwe told a press conference after the game.

The Bulls are now down in ninth position on the log with 33 points and, with just two games remaining after the international break, trail the sixth-placed Hurricanes by four points.

But the Chiefs (35pts), Western Force (36pts) and Highlanders (38pts) are also all ahead of the Bulls and have three matches to play, while the Brumbies are fourth with 40 points with two games left.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said the team’s lack of accuracy on attack had again cost them dearly, as it has in so many of their away games this season.

“The big story was our finishing, we weren’t clinical. We played some good rugby, stringing phases together, but then penalties in the Lions’ half would break our progress, that’s where the momentum swung their way.

“When things aren’t going your way, you need a big moment to ignite the team and it just wasn’t there. It’s disappointing, we played against ourselves but we still feel there’s a small chance of making the playoffs,” Ludeke said.

The Lions camp, back on home turf after a tough four-week tour on which they were unfortunate to lose all their games, were far more optimistic as the victory showcased the character of the team and the bright future that lies ahead of them now that they have guaranteed Super Rugby.

“The boys are obviously glad to be home and they showed a lot of passion tonight. They were really hungry for the win because we felt we played better than our results overseas,” coach Johan Ackermann said.

“It makes me proud that the team never gives up, they train as if they are a winning team and I can’t fault the effort the last few weeks. It’s nice to get the reward.

Ackermann pointed out that they still needed to be sharper in areas of their game.

“We weren’t accurate in everything tonight, we lost a lot of lineouts, but we’ve learnt how to get out of our half and when to run the ball.

“The scrums were good and it was a big step up for Ruan Dreyer and Charles Marais after the late withdrawal of Julian Redelinghuys.

“The team fixed things well out on the field tonight and they worked hard for each other on defence.”

Lions captain Warren Whiteley was happy his team had shown how much they learnt on tour.

“We’ve shown how much we’ve grown, our brotherhood and our passion. We learnt valuable lessons on tour and we’ve got processes in place to stay calm, just think of the next task and stick to the game plan. I’m really proud of the effort,” Whiteley said.

The Lions’ defence was another standout area on the night, with an 89% tackle success rate compared to the Bulls’ 81%.

“Defence is something that epitomises us as a team, we pride ourselves on it. You can see our character and heart in it, the two try-saving tackles in the corner are one of those small margins that matter so much in Super Rugby,” Whiteley said.

The Lions have climbed off the bottom of the log into 13th place and finish their campaign with home matches against the Melbourne Rebels and Cheetahs.

http://www.supersport.com/rugby/super-rugby/news/140601/Van_der_Merwe_concern_about_season



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