Springboks unchanged for All Blacks
It’s a satisfying feeling when a plan starts to come together, and with Heyneke Meyer on Wednesday naming his first unchanged team of his tenure, there is certainly a lot more momentum on the Springbok side than there was just a few weeks ago.
New flyhalf Johan Goosen sat out the early part of the week but was back in training on Wednesday morning, and Meyer will decide after kicking practice in the afternoon whether the Free Stater will be the first-line goalkicker in Saturday’s final Castle Rugby Championship clash with New Zealand at the FNB Stadium.
“All the players who were carrying slight injuries have come back to training and I am happy with the preparation and feel we are ready for Saturday,” said Meyer at the team announcement press conference at the Springbok hotel at Montecasino outside Johannesburg.
“I would like Johan to be the first-choice kicker, but I want to see how he goes this afternoon in training. But it all depends, because if he is still in some discomfort and struggles with his kicks, then we will leave the kicking to Ruan Pienaar.
“Ruan has been striking the ball really well in practice, but then again he was kicking well last week too. I think what you have to consider is that last week Ruan took over the goalkicking role, it was not something he was expected to be entrusted with when he ran onto the field. So if he has to start as the kicker maybe it will go better, but the first choice is Johan.”
The Boks scored five tries against Australia last week but Meyer is emphatic that his team will face a much better defensive effort from the All Blacks, something that makes the goalkicking even more crucial.
“The All Blacks are a great defensive side, as you can see from the fact that in two games this season they have not allowed their opponents to get off nil. They give very few tries away, and we know that to beat them we cannot do it just by scoring tries, we are going to have to get our kicks over as well.
“We have lost two place-kickers. Frans Steyn is now out for the rest of the year, and he was used previously, and then of course Morne Steyn has been left out of the squad. But we do have other options, and I have been pleased to see Patrick Lambie kicking well in training, and we also know what Elton Jantjies is capable of. So we do have options within the squad.”
Although unchanged from the 31-8 win over the Wallabies in Pretoria, the Boks show five changes from the side that pushed New Zealand close in Dunedin the last time these teams met.
Jaco Taute plays No 13, with skipper Jean de Villiers now playing inside centre, while Goosen is the new face at flyhalf.
The Western Province lock pairing of Eben Etzebeth and Andries Bekker are rewarded for their outstanding showings last week by being retained as a unit. Flip van der Merwe and Juandre Kruger played in Dunedin.
Meyer said that he was pleased with the progress the Boks have made in recent weeks after a slow start to the Rugby Championship.
“For a team that has only played a few games together it is starting to come together quite nicely, but New Zealand are the top team in the world and they have a great record at present with several consecutive victories and a winning habit.
"But before the Dunedin game we felt we could beat them and although we didn’t get over in the line we ended that match feeling we can beat them. “But it will take a massive effort from us, and we are going to have to be really clinical and execute everything perfectly in order to pull through with the victory that will make our country proud of us.”
Springbok team: Zane Kirchner, Bryan Habana, Jaco Taute, Jean de Villiers
(captain), Francois Hougaard, Johan Goosen, Ruan Pienaar, Duane Vermeulen,
Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Andries Bekker, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du
Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira.
Liebenberg, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Marcell Coetzee. Elton
Jantjies, Juan de Jongh, Pat Lambie.