Potgieter set for PE debut
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer predictably stuck with the continuity approach when he named his team for Saturday’s final test against England in Port Elizabeth, with the three changes made to the starting combination all coming about because of injury.
That is a different line from the one adopted by his predecessor, Peter de Villiers, for the last dead-rubber test match to be played in South Africa.
For the final match of the 2009 series against the British and Irish Lions, the Boks made 10 changes and lost heavily. But Meyer has The Rugby Championship, which is now just 80 minutes of rugby away, in his thoughts and wants to see his team continue to build from the foundations that have been laid in the two wins thus far.
Bulls flank Jacques Potgieter makes his Bok debut in the city of his birth as a replacement for Willem Alberts, who is out with a knee injury, while Gio Aplon returns from temporary exile to slot into the place of Patrick Lambie (ankle) at fullback.
Lambie played in place of the injured Zane Kirchner in Johannesburg last week, which was why Aplon was called in this week even though he wasn’t in the initial 32-man squad.
“Gio was always part of the long-term plan but you can only have two fullbacks in the squad, which was why he wasn’t in the initial group. He comes into the squad now because both fullbacks are injured,” said Meyer.
“I have full confidence in what Gio can bring, he is a special player. In the first tests we were intending to go with a more conservative approach, which was why we opted for other players ahead of him.”
The other change comes at inside centre, where Wynand Olivier gets his 37th cap in the rare position of being in the starting team. Frans Steyn is getting married and was not available for this game.
Although an experienced international player, Olivier has never quite grabbed his chance at the top level, but Meyer hinted that there may have been mitigating circumstances behind his previous failures.
“I did think of moving Jean de Villiers back to No 12 and shifting JP Pietersen to outside centre (where he has played for the Sharks), but that might mean too many changes. I want to try and keep everything as stable as possible as I want us to build on the performances of the previous two games. I have faith in Wynand. He hasn’t had many opportunities to play tests in South Africa.
“He has also played alongside Morne Steyn a lot and they have a good understanding. I have been pleased with the way the backs have been going, they have been playing good rugby. I will want Jean to continue at outside centre if Frans Steyn comes back for the next competition, so it makes sense to continue with him there in this match and it’s best not to mess him around.”
There are a clutch of changes on the bench, with Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjes nudging into the match 22 in the absence of a back-up flyhalf.
“I always feel you need two specialist quality flyhalves in the 22. When Patrick Lambie was playing we had that, but his injury has robbed us of his services for this game. Elton has been playing well and it is great to get a new guy involved. I don’t want to make the Springbok jersey cheap, I want to base my selections as far as possible around continuity, but Elton has an opportunity to show what he can do.”
Bjorn Basson also comes onto the bench for the first time in the series now that Olivier has moved up to the starting team, while Ryan Kankowski has displaced fellow Sharks player Keegan Daniel as the loose-forward reserve.
“I chose Jacques Potgieter because I wanted a big ball-carrying blindside flank, and Ryan can be fitted into a similar mould, so that is why I made the change,” explained Meyer.
“Jacques is from here and was in great form in Super Rugby (before his injury) so I am excited to see what he can do for us now that Willem is unavailable because of injury.”
Springbok team: Gio Aplon, JP Pietersen, Jean de Villiers (c), Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies, Jacques Potgieter, Marcell Coetzee, Juandre Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtwarira.
Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Werner Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Ryan Kankowski, Ruan Pienaar, Elton Jantjies, Bjorn Basson.