Boks change three for second test
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer made three changes to the side to face England in Saturday’s second test at Coca-Cola Park, keeping his promise to keep continuity with the side that did so well in the first test.
All three changes were forced on him by injury, as Pat Lambie moved into the starting line-up to cover for Zane Kirchner’s knee injury, with Bjorn Basson moving onto the bench.
The other change came due to Coenie Oosthuizen’s neck injury, where tighthead Werner Kruger was preferred to Dean Greyling to make a second-half impact.
While there were no real surprises in the side, Kruger above Greyling came down to scrummaging ability, as Greyling isn’t known to play both sides of the scrum, and a niggle to starter Jannie du Plessis made it an easy call to ensure there was the right cover for him.
England will face a motivated team that Meyer believes needs to up their performance if they are to satisfy their own high standards as a team.
“We wanted some continuity in the team and I thought the guys played reasonably well. We have high standards and expect a better performance on Saturday. For their first start, a lot of the youngsters did very well, and we wanted to keep some continuity, that’s why we made this choice,” Meyer explained at the team announcement.
“The guys that came in know the game plan and hopefully will make a huge difference.”
Meyer explained that he had considered putting a full front row on the bench, but with Du Plessis struggling in training, opted to go safe rather than bold when it comes to his selection in the front row.
“Coenie is an awesome player and I just hope he will recover well. He is a guy that we will need in the future, especially as we’re also looking at playing him at tighthead in future,” said Meyer.
“We had to look at the players on the bench and while Dean Greyling is a great impact player and loosehead, I’ve opted for Werner Kruger because Jannie has been struggling with a slight injury this week and I’d like some cover for him there. Werner brings something different and is a quality player as well.
“We did look at it (a five-two split on the bench), and it was a big decision and a big talking point in the team. I was happy with the scrummaging though in the first test.
“We looked at that but at test match level you need cover all over. I also believe that the backs can be impact players, and you don’t want to lose that. If you have two injuries then suddenly there are a lot of players playing out of position.”
Meyer went on to say he didn’t believe altitude would be too much of a factor on the weekend, but that his team’s mental toughness and hunger was what he was looking to, to ensure the victory.
“England is a quality side and I have a lot of respect for their coaching team and players. Every game is a test match and we know we need to be well prepared and focused. Altitude makes a big difference and is in our advantage. You can’t let a stadium or altitude or the people win a test match for you, especially if we want to become the best team in the world.
“The players still need to play and be mentally tough and arrive for the game. We’re looking forward to it, we know it will be tough but it will be a great battle.”
Lastly, there might have been some eyebrows raised at the omission of Gio Aplon from the match 22, but Meyer said his decision was based on the fact that Aplon had not trained with the team for very long.
“We thought of putting him (Gio) in but he hasn’t trained that much with the side. I decided Frans Steyn has played fullback for most of this year at Racing Metro and done well there, Bjorn Basson has covered fullback at the Bulls and Ruan has played test rugby at fullback, so we felt there was enough cover at fullback. “
A Bok victory will see them win the series 2-0 with one test left to play.
Springbok team: Pat Lambie, JP Pietersen, Jean de Villiers (c), Francois Steyn, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Juandre Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtwarira.
Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Werner Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Keegan Daniel, Ruan Pienaar, Wynand Olivier, Bjorn Basson.