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Ken Borland



Le Roux & Vermaak could start the spark for Springboks 0

Posted on April 20, 2016 by Ken

 

Coach Heyneke Meyer knows that he needs to add more attacking spark in year two of his tenure with the national team, and the two new caps chosen for the Test against Italy in Durban on Saturday could be the first steps in that process.

Cheetahs wizard Willie le Roux will start at fullback and Bulls scrumhalf Jano Vermaak in the number nine jersey, with three other uncapped players on the bench in prop Trevor Nyakane, loose forward Arno Botha and centre Jan Serfontein.

By the end of this quadrangular series also featuring Scotland and Samoa, we should know whether Le Roux’s roaming style of play and his dazzling trickery with ball in hand can be successful at Test level. It has certainly sparked something special for the Cheetahs and the 35 tries they have scored so far this season in SuperRugby is the best in the South African Conference and only the Chiefs, Waratahs and Rebels have scored more overall.

It is the Bulls, however, who are leading the South African Conference and it is in no small way thanks to Vermaak’s snappy clearing of the rucks and his speed off the mark on attack that they have 32 tries themselves and have impressed with the balance of their game between penetrative forward runners and a backline that is growing in confidence.

Replacement Ruan Pienaar may have been a star for Ulster again this year, but the 29-year-old has not been part of any of the Springbok training camps and Meyer said he had also gone for the established Morné Steyn/Vermaak combination at halfback.

This means there is no place for Francois Hougaard, even on the bench, with Pat Lambie and Serfontein the other backline reserves. Hougaard would appear to have paid the price for his scrappy service during a slow return from injury, although he was much-improved in the Bulls’ impressive win over the Cheetahs last weekend.

The 20-year-old Serfontein could even be in line for a start, coming in for Jean de Villiers at inside centre if the captain does not recover sufficiently from a hamstring niggle.

Meyer is well-known for his fondness for a big, strong ball-carrier at inside centre, but he has ignored, for the moment anyway, the exciting possibility of having the robust Serfontein at 12 and De Villiers at outside centre.

Instead, JJ Engelbrecht, who the jury is still out on (is he a better centre than a wing?) will wear the number 13 jersey having only played 10 previous minutes of Test rugby as a replacement on the wing against Argentina last year.

Bjorn Basson, so brilliant in the air, makes a return on the left wing to play his first Test since 2011, with the rest of the team pretty much as predicted.

Lourens Adriaanse, Gio Aplon, Marcell Coetzee, Robert Ebersohn, Bismarck du Plessis, Zane Kirchner, Siya Kolisi, Lappies Labuschagné, Lwazi Mvovo and Franco van der Merwe will be twiddling their thumbs next to Hougaard on the side of the field as Meyer goes for some continuity with 10 of the players who appeared in the last Test of 2012, the 16-15 win over England at Twickenham, featuring again this weekend.

The likes of Adriaanse, Aplon, Coetzee, Ebersohn, Kolisi, Labuschagné, Mvovo and Van der Merwe are likely to be given the opportunity of picking up some valuable experience later in the series, but for now Meyer wants to get his 2013 campaign up-and-running with a win over the tricky Italians.

Italian rugby is certainly on the up, as shown by a fourth-place finish in the Six Nations, and their physical pack has the ability to front up to the Springbok forwards.

But how pleasing it would be if it were the attacking skills of a Le Roux-inspired backline that proved the difference at King’s Park.

Team: Willie le Roux, Bryan Habana, JJ Engelbrecht, Jean de Villiers, Bjorn Basson, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Juandré Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Arno Botha, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-06-06-springbok-team-the-proven-plus-a-pinch-of-pizzazz/#.Vxos5vl97IU

Heyneke relies on core players to finish job v Samoa 0

Posted on March 01, 2016 by Ken

 

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has called on the same core group of players to finish the job and win the quadrangular series by beating Samoa at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

The Samoans are awkward opponents due to their immense physical strength, unpredictable running lines and their preference for an unstructured game. All of which calls for maturity, fronting up physically and the composure to stick with the game plan from the Springboks.

Meyer is in a catch-22 situation because he knows he has disappointed many Springbok supporters by not giving more game time in the series to the likes of Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Robert Ebersohn, Lappies Labuschagne, Pat Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Jan Serfontein.

But he also knows that any defeat in this series would absolutely horrify us – consider how much angst there has been over the performance against Scotland, where the Springboks won by 13 points – and continuity is probably the key factor when it comes to winning.

And Samoa are certainly opposition to be respected.

Before the 2011 World Cup, South Africa had played Samoa six times, won every game and scored 316 points while conceding just 65. But at North Harbour Stadium in their previous meeting, the Springboks were clinging on for dear life as the Samoans ran them ragged in the second half, the defending champions eventually scraping home 13-5.

Today’s islanders are an even better outfit. Their entire squad for Loftus Versfeld plays in either Europe, New Zealand or the rapidly improving Japanese league and they have added some structure, especially defensively, as well as set-piece technique to their flair with ball in hand and brutal physicality.

“The Samoans aren’t amateurs anymore, they are all professional players in great competitions with top coaches. They are still very dangerous in broken play, but there’s been a big improvement in their scrum and defence.

“They are very physical and tough to play against and I have a lot of respect for their ball-carrying capacity,” Meyer said this week.

The Springbok coach is undoubtedly relying on an improved effort and presence in the collisions and has called on Willem Alberts at blindside flank and Flip van der Merwe, a number four lock playing in the number five jersey, to help bring this about.

But he is also relying on the experience and calm heads that veterans such as Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers, Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, Pierre Spies, Tendai Mtawarira and the Du Plessis brothers, Jannie and Bismarck, can bring as a safety net in a Test that could easily become a torrid test of composure.

There will probably be some pressure on the Springbok scrum – Van der Merwe’s added bulk in the second row will help there – but Meyer seems confident that the Springbok lineout can dominate.

They will surely, therefore, rely on the boot of Steyn to win territory and force the Samoans to try and run pressure ball from their own half.

But the territory game also requires that the Springboks get on the front foot in the tight exchanges and secure much quicker ball than they did against Scotland.

There is apparently a late change in referee for Saturday’s Test, with Irishman John Lacey no longer officiating. Frenchman Pascal Gauzere is set to take over and his display in the Durban match between the Springboks and Italy suggests he will be much more willing to ensure Samoa cooperate and play fair at the breakdowns than his countryman, Roman Poite, was in Nelspruit.

And the Springboks should also not fall into the trap of thinking Samoa will only attack with blind physicality. Although the likes of wing Alesana Tuilagi (117kg) and reserve centre Seilala Mapasua (120kg) do often just tuck the ball under the arm and employ the “Samoan sidestep” to try and knock the defender’s block off, there is still a solid skills set among the backs and elusive runners such as Johnny Leota, Alapati Leiua, James So’oialo and Tusi Pisi.

Outside centre JJ Engelbrecht, in particular, is a solid block of meat and muscle in the Springbok backline, but he is prone to being manipulated out of alignment by skilful runners.

If Meyer is not going to experiment, if he insists on sending out his best available team to do duty week in, week out, then it seems only fair that the public start to see that continuity pay off with more consistent performances.

Having learnt from the Springboks’ failure to dominate Scotland, nobody is expecting a walkover against Samoa. But a controlled, convincing victory (whatever the score-line) will go a long way in reassuring their fans that Meyer is building a team that is able to challenge for Rugby Championship honours later this year.

Teams

South Africa: 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.

Samoa: 15-James So’oialo, 14-Alapati Leiua, 13-Paul Williams, 12-Johnny Leota, 11-Alesana Tuilagi, 10-Tusi Pisi, 9-Jeremy Sua, 8-Taiasina Tuifua, 7-Jack Lam, 6-Ofisa Treviranus, 5-Daniel Leo, 4-Teofilo Paulo, 3-Census Johnston, 2-Wayne Ole Avei, 1-Sakaria Taulafo. Replacements – 16-Ti’i Paulo, 17-Logovii Mulipola, 18-James Johnston, 19-Kane Thompson, 20-Junior Poluleuligaga, 21-Brandon Vaaulu, 22-Seilala Mapusua, 23-Alafoti Faosiliva.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-06-21-rugby-a-win-against-samoa-will-reassure-bok-fans/#.VtWC6Pl97IU

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

Meyer in the mood for a big victory 0

Posted on December 15, 2015 by Ken

 

Although the Springboks trounced Italy convincingly, Scotland has traditionally not been an easy opponent to destroy. Heyneke Meyer’s reluctance to add to the 852 players in the index of South Africa’s capped internationals for Saturday’s Test against a depleted Scottish side has many people baffled, but the Springbok coach perhaps let slip his motivation with a throwaway line during the team announcement.

“Our past results against Scotland are nothing to be proud of,” he said in midweek.

He obviously meant results in the recent past because Meyer would have grown up hearing stories of how the Springboks set the world record score against Scotland in Edinburgh in 1951 when they walloped them 44-0. Tries were only worth three points back then, so South Africa’s tally of nine, plus seven conversions from Okey Geffin and a drop goal from Hannes Brewis would have been equivalent to a 62-0 drubbing in today’s terms.

But since 2002, the Springboks have struggled to really put the Scots away. They lost 21-6 that year in Edinburgh and again 21-17 in 2010, but even their victories, with a couple of exceptions, have not been by much – 29-25 (Durban, 2003); 28-19 (Johannesburg, 2003); 45-10 (Edinburgh 2004); 36-16 (Durban, 2006); 29-15 (Port Elizabeth, 2006); 27-3 (Edinburgh, 2007); 14-10 (Edinburgh, 2008) and 21-10 (Edinburgh 2012).

So Meyer is clearly hoping for something more along the lines of 62-0 as he calls into service the bulk of the team that put Italy away in impressive fashion last weekend.

With South Africa set to play Scotland in a potential pool decider in their own conditions in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Meyer will also be keen on scoring some psychological points through a big victory.

With another week of training together hopefully providing even more continuity, and those first Test nerves a thing of the past for a handful of players, Meyer is confident that the Springboks will build on their King’s Park performance when they play the first Test to be hosted by the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.

And the home side certainly has numerous weapons with which to really hurt the Scots.

Bryan Habana won the Man of the Match award for his dazzling display of pacy counter-attacking and new Scotland flyhalf Ruaridh Jackson and debutant fullback Peter Murchie are warned that aimless kicking will be punished.

Saturday also provides another opportunity for Willie le Roux and JJ Engelbrecht to shine, while if left wing Bjorn Basson continues to look for work, he could well add to his maiden Test try last weekend.

Scotland suffered a terrible injury toll after their loss to the physical Samoans. Coach Scott Johnson said he was “hard-pressed to remember so many injuries from the one Test match” – and unfortunately for them they can expect more of the same from the Springboks.

The loose trio of Pierre Spies, Arno Botha and Marcell Coetzee are renowned for their physicality, as is lock Eben Etzebeth, while Meyer can turn to the likes of Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe and, of course, Bismarck du Plessis, for even more punching power off the bench.

The ferocious Du Plessis is likely to only be on the field for a short period, but Scotland could well learn the meaning of vasbyt in that time.

“I’ve never been out this long before, I’ve missed six Sharks games in eight years before the knee operation, so frustration doesn’t even come close to describing the feeling. Even if you miss one game, you can never get it back again and even if I just get one minute on Saturday, I’m going to try and fit 80 minutes of rugby into it,” Du Plessis vowed this week.

Siya Kolisi, who at 1.86m is shorter than the loose forwards Meyer usually favours, is another who should get a stint off the bench and the debutant will want to make his presence count at the breakdowns.

Meyer has identified the breakdowns as one of the key areas he is looking to improve in the second year of his term and, with Francois Louw the first-choice open-side flank, Kolisi will want to make the most of his chance while the Bath man is away getting married this weekend.

The scrums are another area where the Springboks can improve, but in the unlikely event of Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira struggling, Meyer does have the insurance of in-form Cheetahs props Oosthuizen and Trevor Nyakane on the bench.

Scotland will have an experienced tighthead in British Lions tourist Euan Murray to test the Springbok scrum, but the visitors will be hard-pressed to match the lineout skills of the hosts.

The fact that an already depleted Scotland team have now been battered and bruised to such an extent that coach Johnson had to make seven more changes, does not inspire much confidence that they can upset a Springbok team that has their coach calling for blood.

“We still have to put in the hard work against Scotland. It’s like SuperRugby, any team can beat you on their day. We played some great rugby last weekend, but we’re still far from our best. We still need to improve and for us it’s about putting in 100%, 100% of the time,” Meyer said.

For the Springboks to slacken now would totally expose their coach’s about-turn on using this quadrangular series to try a bunch of players.

With a Nelspruit crowd eager to see the Springboks in action for the first time in their city, we can surely expect the Springboks to improve further on their start to the season in Durban by putting Scotland to the sword.

Teams

South Africa – Willie le Roux; Bryan Habana, JJ Engelbrecht, Jean de Villiers, Bjorn Basson; Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar; Pierre Spies, Arno Botha, Marcell Coetzee; Juandre Kruger, Eben Etzebeth; Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Bismarck du Plessis, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Siya Kolisi, Piet van Zyl, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.

Scotland – Peter Murchie; Tommy Seymour, Alex Dunbar, Matt Scott, Sean Lamont; Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw; Johnnie Beattie, Ryan Wilson, Alasdair Strokosch; Jim Hamilton, Tim Swinson; Euan Murray, Scott Lawson, Alasdair Dickinson. Replacements: Steven Lawrie, Jon Welsh, Moray Low, Alastair Kellock, David Denton, Henry Pyrgos, Peter Horne, Duncan Taylor.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-06-14-springboks-vs-scotland-meyer-hoping-for-repeat-performance/#.VnAFHEp97IU

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