Meyer names physical Bok side
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer named a big physical squad of combined youth and experience for the three tests against England starting next Saturday.
Nine uncapped players in the squad of 32, as well as 15 members of the 2011 Rugby World Cup squad, make up Meyer’s first squad which will probably be remembered more for its exclusions than for the players who have made it.
Meyer clearly has an idea of the players he wants for South Africa, and is prepared to back them in his blueprint for success, but his choices are not likely to go down well with Stormers fans, who have only three players in the squad as opposed to the Bulls' 13 and Sharks' 12.
The exclusions of Loftus Versfeld man of the match Siya Kolisi, who was a giant on Saturday, as well as Bok favourites Juan de Jongh and Gio Aplon will pose questions, while Bok fetcher Heinrich Brussow is another one who will feel desperately unlucky at not being selected.
Kolisi was named among six additional young players who Meyer feels “will play for the Boks in the next year or so” but there will be many who feel he should be in the squad right now.
But there will also be eyebrows raised over some of the new caps – who are Marcell Coetzee, JJ Engelbrecht, Eben Etzebeth, Elton Jantjies, Juandre Kruger, Coenie Oosthuizen, Jacques Potgieter, Franco van der Merwe and Jano Vermaak – as well as some of the older members of the squad.
Coetzee, Etzebeth, Kruger and Oosthuizen have all stood out in Vodacom Super Rugby this year, while Potgieter had a good session before getting injured. Jantjies and Van der Merwe have been good in a poor Lions team while Vermaak has mainly started off the bench for the Bulls this year.
Meyer will only name his captain this week after he and Fourie du Preez took a joint decision not to select the World Cup winner. Du Preez asked the coach to exclude him as “he said he hasn’t played for almost three months, and doesn’t believe he will be 100%”.
Meyer was also hampered as several players weren’t available due to injury, including Stormers Andries Bekker, Schalk Burger and Duanne Vermeulen. Others injured included World Cup winner Juan Smith who has been ruled out for the season while midfielder Jaque Fourie has made himself unavailable for international duty.
The Bok coach said he had made some tough calls, but believed “this is the best 32-man squad for England”.
“There are a few guys who are unlucky not to be there, and others who were unlucky to be injured,” Meyer said. “I would have loved to go with a more experienced squad but I have gone with players who have a desire to play for their country and who have shown in Super Rugby that they won’t stand back. These are the form players and I am proud of them.
“This is a team that can play winning test rugby – brutal defence, big forwards running at each other, tactical kicking and direct rugby. This team can play to our typical South African strengths and the side that plays best to their pattern is normally the one that wins.
"I wanted to start the season with an experienced squad to face England, who are a good, tough side, but injuries have made this difficult," Meyer said.
Meyer said while he would have just five days to prepare the squad for the first test against England, he didn’t want excuses.
“I wanted guys who want to play for the Boks. Today was brutal out here, and I think they have the makings of a great team and squad and I have a lot of confidence in them.”
STAR OF THE FUTURE
In explaining the omission of De Jongh and Aplon, Meyer said Engelbrecht had been earmarked as a star of the future.
“Jean de Villiers is playing brilliant rugby at the moment, and JP Pietersen impressed as a possible back-up at 13. We could have gone with an experienced guy or a guy for the future and JJ is a brilliant winger who can develop into a world-class outside centre. He has great attributes.
“He is a guy who is in the squad so we can work with him. As for Gio, there are a lot of great players with different strengths, but the four wingers I have chosen I feel are the best at this stage, and in Pat (Lambie) and Zane (Kirchner) I feel I have the two best fullbacks there.”
Furthermore, six promising players have been added to the Springbok squad for the next three weeks. They are not eligible for selection but will train with the squad in Durban, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth.
They are Siya Kolisi (flank), Arno Botha (No 8), Frans Malherbe (prop), CJ Stander (loose forward), Francois Venter (centre) and Piet van Zyl (scrumhalf).
Meyer said: “We feel that these players have what it takes to play for the Springboks and they were close to selection in the final squad. However, these three weeks provide the ideal opportunity to work with them, show them what the Springbok culture is all about and hopefully put them on the right track to play for South Africa sooner rather than later. By doing this now, we will reap the dividends going forward.
“We also rate a number of great players in the South African Under-20 squad, but they were not considered at this stage due to the fact that they are playing in a very important Junior World Championship.”
SPRINGBOK SQUAD (number of caps in brackets)
Willem Alberts (The Sharks, 9)
Bjorn Basson (Vodacom Blue Bulls, 6)
Marcell Coetzee (The Sharks, 0)
Keegan Daniel (The Sharks, 1)
Jean de Villiers (DHL Western Province, 72)
Bismarck du Plessis (The Sharks, 42)
Jannie du Plessis (The Sharks, 30)
JJ Engelbrecht (Vodacom Blue Bulls, 0)
Eben Etzebeth (DHL Western Province, 0)
Bryan Habana (DHL Western Province, 74)
Francois Hougaard (Vodacom Blue Bulls, 15)
Elton Jantjies (MTN Golden Lions, 0)
Ryan Kankowski (The Sharks, 19)
Zane Kirchner (Vodacom Blue Bulls, 14)
Juandré Kruger (Vodacom Blue Bulls, 0)
Werner Kruger (Vodacom Blue Bulls, 2)
Patrick Lambie (The Sharks, 11)
Tendai Mtawarira (The Sharks, 32)
Lwazi Mvovo (The Sharks, 4)
Wynand Olivier (Vodacom Blue Bulls, 34)
Coenie Oosthuizen (Toyota FS Cheetahs, 0)
Ruan Pienaar (Ulster, Ireland, 51)
JP Pietersen (The Sharks, 42)
Jacques Potgieter (Vodacom Blue Bulls, 0)
Chiliboy Ralepelle (Vodacom Blue Bulls, 21)
Pierre Spies (Vodacom Blue Bulls, 47)
Frans Steyn (The Sharks, 47)
Morné Steyn (Vodacom Blue Bulls, 34)
Adriaan Strauss (Toyota FS Cheetahs, 9)
Flip van der Merwe (Vodacom Blue Bulls, 11)
Franco van der Merwe (MTN Golden Lions, 0)
Jano Vermaak (Vodacom Blue Bulls, 0)