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Ken Borland



Sadness as two players leave the Springbok family 0

Posted on January 19, 2018 by Ken

 

Coach Heyneke Meyer likes to talk about the Springbok team as being a family, and there was sadness in camp on Monday when two players left the squad ahead of the Rugby Championship finale against the All Blacks at Soccer City on Saturday.

While Jacques Potgieter, who has an abdominal strain, was a fringe player, Francois Steyn is a key figure in the team, having played 53 Tests despite being just 25 years old, and a senior player.

But his departure from the squad to have ankle surgery is undoubtedly in the long-term interests of both the team and the player.

“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,” team doctor Craig Roberts said.

Steyn might be missing out now, but the positive side is that he will be able to have a proper rest and pre-season conditioning before starting next year’s SuperRugby competition with the Sharks, hopefully in prime physical and mental state.

Sometimes an enforced break like this one can end up adding years to a player’s career and, as Roberts pointed out, the Springboks are looking for another 60 Tests from the utility back and he will be a vital figure in the 2015 World Cup in England.

A third player could well leave the squad on Tuesday, with prop Coenie Oosthuizen going to see a specialist in Durban about his neck injury. Meyer rushed the versatile Oosthuizen back into the team, naming him on the bench for the Test against Australia despite the 23-year-old having played just 35 minutes for the Free State Cheetahs since injuring his neck during his Springbok debut against England in June.

Sometimes players are rushed back into action too soon and it is a credit to Roberts that he managed to convince Meyer to pull Oosthuizen from last weekend’s game; the team doctor clearly has doubts that the prop has fully recovered.

“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.

Both the Springboks and All Blacks are coming off impressive weekend victories, setting up another titanic clash between the two great rivals at the iconic stadium in Soweto. New Zealand may have already clinched the inaugural Rugby Championship title, but there is no doubt they will be up for the game against the old enemy.

Apart from notching another victory on South African soil, they would also love to complete the year unbeaten and stretch their winning run to 16 matches dating back to the start of their triumphant World Cup campaign.

“We’ve won the Rugby Championship, but we’ve parked that and we’re now focused on winning in South Africa. If you talk to the older guys, they’ll tell you it’s more rewarding winning here than beating the Springboks at home. The guys that have been around a while really love testing themselves against the best here; it’s one of the toughest places to win,” loose forward Sam Cane said on Monday.

Lock Sam Whitelock also stressed the importance of Saturday’s game.

“It’s really nice that we’ve put the trophy away, but this weekend will be a massive challenge. It would be great to start off a new competition with a clean sweep.

“Last year didn’t go so well for us in Port Elizabeth and South Africa is always hard to beat at home. But that’s the beauty of international rugby; you have to perform week in and week out. All you need is one game to not go well and everything can unravel very quickly,” Whitelock said.

The great rivalry between the two sides will be exemplified in the tremendous physicality of Saturday’s Test, with the Dunedin match two weekends ago being widely proclaimed as a coming-of-age performance by the youthful Springbok pack.

“The Dunedin game was a typical All Blacks/Springboks Test, with massive body collisions. It was quite tight and it took a while for either side to win any dominance. I’m sure it will be the case again this week and the body will take a bit of a hammering,” Whitelock said.

The Springboks are obviously not going to make the same mistake that Argentina did in trying to match the expansive, fast-paced game of the All Blacks.

“Playing at home, there’s always more pressure to run the ball, but that’s what New Zealand likes 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.

The Springboks are well positioned to do this if they can produce a repeat performance of their Loftus Versfeld heroics against the Wallabies.

For all the elation of the five tries scored, it was a top-class defensive effort in the trenches that set up a morale-boosting win.

“It was a good performance, definitely the most satisfying of the year, and 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. Plus we only had 45% possession,” Meyer said.

A win over the in-form world champions would ensure Meyer gets a positive review after his first year in charge.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-10-02-rugby-tough-calls-for-the-springboks/#.WmHcfK6WbIU

 

Meyer shows flexibility & daring despite dark injury cloud 0

Posted on November 06, 2015 by Ken

 

For all the talk of a dark injury cloud hanging over South African rugby, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has still been able to name a squad full of exciting young talent for the quadrangular series that starts next weekend against Italy, Scotland and Samoa.

Saturday night might be all right for fighting, but Meyer’s announcement of his new 34-man squad at Newlands was met with far less criticism than much of what he did last year.

Perhaps it’s because Meyer has shown a flexibility and daring that did not seem to be part of his character during his safety-first initial year in charge.

The most obvious sign of this is the selection of Willie le Roux, the ultimate anti-structure player, someone who wears an 11 on his back for the Cheetahs but roams all over the field.

Le Roux is the epitome of the rugby gambler, he’s always looking first for the opportunity to try something attacking, and kicking, although a skill of his, is definitely a last-ditch option.

While Meyer has grasped the nettle and chosen the man who is the Cheetahs’ creative force, he seems a little nervous about what he might have unleashed upon his carefully structured team and admitted that he has had discussions with Le Roux about playing the percentages better.

“I had a great chat with Willie at the training camp. He brings the X-factor that you need at times, but there’s a fine line in Test rugby. You can bring the X-factor but you mustn’t give up tries because there’s an average difference of one try per game in Tests,” Meyer said.

The uncapped Le Roux is likely to be used at fullback, where Meyer’s resources have been plundered by injuries to JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn, Jaco Taute and Zane Kirchner, who is in the squad but unlikely to play until the final match.

“I’m going to look at playing Willie at 15, I love it when a fullback comes in behind the flyhalf like he does for the Cheetahs. We want to improve on attack and score more tries.

“I was very worried about fullback, but now we have options and I will definitely consider Pat Lambie and Gio Aplon there as well,” Meyer said.

Le Roux has skills that are normally seen only once in a blue moon on a rugby field, so even if Meyer involves him off the bench, he is going to bring a different dimension, and most notably more vision, to the Springbok backline.

It is pleasing as well to see some fresh blood introduced into the loose forward stocks in the form of Lappies Labuschagne and Siya Kolisi, both of whom have had major impacts in SuperRugby, for the Cheetahs and Stormers respectively.

While it is highly likely Francois Louw, Willem Alberts and Pierre Spies will form the starting loose trio, it is also probable that one of the uncapped trio of Labuschagne, Kolisi or Arno Botha will win a place on the bench alongside Marcell Coetzee.

The presence of utility backs such as Ruan Pienaar, Le Roux, JJ Engelbrecht, Lambie and Francois Hougaard in the squad means Meyer should be able to use a 6-2 split on the bench, with an entire front row now required due to the new IRB regulations.

It will be a daunting task for any team to front up to the big hits that Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss, Eben Etzebeth, Alberts, Spies, Tendai Mtawarira, Flip van der Merwe, Coetzee, Labuschagne, Kolisi and Botha routinely dish up. It is also what the Bulls have based their game plan on, and they are the in-form team in SuperRugby at the moment.

Saturday night’s squad announcement also tees up centre Jan Serfontein, loosehead prop Trevor Nyakane, scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, lock Pieter-Steph du Toit and tighthead prop Lourens Adriaanse for a Test debut over the next three weeks.

Jean de Villiers has been confirmed as the captain so he will either play at number 12 or number 13. If he plays at 13 – and the only other options are Engelbrecht and Juan de Jongh, who is still recovering from injury – then Serfontein is a shoe-in at inside centre.

He may only be 20 years old, but Serfontein has already stamped his presence in the Bulls’ midfield and he is a powerful, as well as dynamic, attacking force.

Meyer said he was delighted to be able to pick such talented youngsters.

“A lot of great, experienced Springboks are not in the squad, but I’m very happy to be able to pick these youngsters after very good SuperRugby form. We have to give players chances so that we prepare for the Rugby Championship, but still pick our best side for every Test. It’s about winning and being humble and not underestimating the opposition. But a couple of these youngsters deserve a start,” Meyer said.

Meyer said he had chosen an expanded squad of 34 players in order to prepare for the Rugby Championship against Southern Hemisphere rivals New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, which explains the presence of Bismarck du Plessis, De Jongh and Kirchner, all of whom have played next to no rugby in recent weeks and can’t realistically be expected to come straight back at Test level.
The Springbok coach said he aimed to back experience while still giving youth its head.

“This series is part of our preparation for the Rugby Championship, so I won’t be picking a different side every week. There will be new caps and it is a very young squad. But I also need to give players lots of Tests so they can reach 30 or 40 by the World Cup, so it’s a catch-22.

“I’ll probably go with experience to start, but with youngsters coming off the bench. I am loyal to performance and we’re going to have some great players in future,” Meyer said.

And he can say that again.

Squad: Willie le Roux, Gio Aplon, Zane Kirchner, Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers, JJ Engelbrecht, Juan de Jongh, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Lwazi Mvovo, Morné Steyn, Pat Lambie, Ruan Pienaar, Francois Hougaard, Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies, Arno Botha, Willem Alberts, Lappies Labuschagné, Francois Louw, Marcell Coetzee, Siya Kolisi, Juandré Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Flip van der Merwe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jannie du Plessis, Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Bismarck du Plessis, Coenie Oosthuizen, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-06-03-springbok-squad-safety-first-meyer-shows-flexibility-daring/#.VkCHoLcrLIU

Despite talk, Sharks put faith in tight five 0

Posted on July 28, 2015 by Ken

 

Despite all the talk about scoring tries, the Cell C Sharks will be putting their faith in the expertise of their tight five, judging by the team announced yesterday for their opening Vodacom SuperRugby match against the Toyota Cheetahs in Durban on Saturday.

Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira, Mouritz Botha and Pieter-Steph du Toit will all be bringing international experience to the field and coach Gary Gold will be hoping they will be laying the most solid of foundations.

Marcell Coetzee is the senior loose forward, with Pumas import Renaldo Bothma getting a SuperRugby debut and Tera Mtembu slotting in at eighthman. Willem Alberts and lock Stephan Lewies are still out with injury.

Pat Lambie and Cobus Reinach form an outstanding halfback pairing, but Gold has a less settled combination at centre. Waylon Murray was born in Durban and schooled at Westville, but has played most of his recent rugby outside the province and he returns to the outside centre berth, with young Heimar Williams alongside him, preferred to exciting young powerhouse Andre Esterhuizen.

SP Marais will be at fullback, but perhaps the Sharks’ greatest attacking threat will be from wings Lwazi Mvovo and S’bura Sithole.

Jean Deysel is on the bench and is the only one of the Japanese-based players to make the match-day squad, with the return of Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen keenly awaited as they will give the backline the experience that is currently lacking in comparison to the tight five.

Matt Stevens, the former British Lions prop, is also on the bench, as is the veteran wing Odwa Ndungane.

The match will be refereed by the Australian, Andrew Lees, and the kick-off is at 5.05pm.

 

 



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