Kanko may still get to play
He wasn’t selected into the 30-man Springbok squad for the Argentina leg that starts the competition, but Ryan Kankowski might yet get to play in The Castle Rugby Championship.
Although Kankowski has signed a six-month deal to play club rugby in Japan, the Sharks No 8 was a surprise omission from the squad as it was assumed that he would still be available. It turns out he may be, and Meyer told journalists at the squad announcement press conference in Worcester that he is working on having Kankowski available to play.
“It’s a tricky situation for us. I did look at Ryan and I think he is probably playing the best rugby of his life,” said Meyer.
“We spoke to Ryan, and it was just quite difficult for him to be selected right now. So he wasn’t selected for this test series (against Argentina), but we spoke this morning and we are still in contact, and hopefully he will be available going forward.”
Further good news is that Meyer is also still holding out hope that Fourie du Preez will be available once his new season with his Japanese club starts. Du Preez was Meyer’s choice as team captain until the scrumhalf was forced through undisclosed reasons to make himself unavailable for the recent series against England.
With Francois Hougaard struggling at stages of the England series to replicate the tactical kicking accuracy that Meyer considers so important and which is a Du Preez strength, the former Bulls star will considerably boost the confidence of the Boks should he be called up for the later legs of The Rugby Championship.
The Springboks kick off their campaign against Argentina in Cape Town on 18 August before flying to Mendoza to play the return game a week later.
They then fly to Australasia to play Australia and New Zealand and it is then that Meyer will be hoping to have Kankowski and Du Preez in the mix.
If not by then, expect them to play in the home leg at the end of September/beginning October.
Other players who might also feature later in the competition include Stormers No 8 Duane Vermeulen, who is expected to return to the field after an absence for injury during the early stages of Western Province’s Currie Cup campaign. Coenie Oosthuizen, Johan Goosen and Jaco Taute could feature in the home leg if they prove their fitness in time.
The squad named at the weekend generally reflects Meyer’s determination to continue with the path that he had struck out on at the start of the England series, with the non-selection of inform Charl McLeod a clear indication that Meyer is not going to be brought into the off-load based game that has served the Sharks so well towards the end of the Super Rugby season.
He is set to continue with Hougaard and Morne Steyn as his halfback pairing against Argentina, although there is a good chance that Hougaard might make way for either Ruan Pienaar or Du Preez if he does not show a sharp upward curve in his ability to effectively execute a tactical kicking strategy.
“What’s important, and I saw it again with the Sharks in the Super Rugby final, is that you need a No 9 and a No 10 who can kick tactically and control the game. Morne hasn’t played to the best of his ability and the same for Francois, but that is something to work on. I thought hard about the halfbacks, but you do need some continuity.
“I’ve always believed as a coach that it is your job to improve a player through coaching as it is counter-productive to just pick a different player every week. You need continuity. The players know they have to step up to the plate and that I wasn’t happy with their performances (against England).