Three changes to Bok side for Dublin
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has elected to keep changes to a minimum for Saturday’s test against Ireland in Dublin, which may explain what many might consider the surprise selections in the starting team.
As anticipated Meyer has selected Pat Lambie at flyhalf, with the Sharks player moving up from the bench role that he filled in the Castle Rugby Championship.
Surprisingly, there is no place in the match-day squad for Elton Jantjies, with Meyer electing to put faith instead in Morne Steyn, the man who was dropped after the overseas leg following a nightmare run of poor form.
It was in fact Free Stater Johan Goosen who started the last test match the Boks played, which was the final Championship match against the All Blacks at FNB Stadium, but Jantjies was on the bench that day and it was he who finished the game after Goosen was injured.
That was enough for some critics to feel that Jantjies should wear the No 10 in Dublin, but Lambie was the form flyhalf towards the end of the Currie Cup and it could be argued that he should have been thrust into a starting role as long ago as 2010, when he was the spearhead of the Sharks’ win in that year’s Absa Currie Cup.
There are two other changes to the side, both injury related, although JP Pietersen, who comes back for Bryan Habana, was always expected to play regardless of the status of his long-time wing partner.
Had Habana been fit to tour, he would no doubt have played in the No 11 jersey that Francois Hougaard is set to wear at the Aviva Stadium.
The other injury-enforced change to the starting line-up is at lock, where Juandre Kruger gets a further chance to build the momentum that was broken when he was left out following a strong performance in the away Castle Championship test match against the All Blacks in Dunedin.
Andries Bekker, who wore the No 5 jersey in the home leg, was – like Habana, reserve hooker Tiaan Liebenberg and reserve prop Coenie Oosthuizen – injured playing in the Currie Cup and was unable to tour.
While the selection of Lambie at No 10 would seem a popular choice, there will doubtless be those who will feel Meyer should have gone a step further by playing Jaco Taute at fullback.
He has said that he prefers Taute as a fullback and the word after the Currie Cup final was that he would select Taute at No 15 ahead of Zane Kirchner to enable Juan de Jongh to come in as the starting outside centre.
Taute wasn’t a success in the midfield in the home leg of the Championship, so it does beg the question as to why he is being retained.
The answer could be that Meyer opted against moving him to fullback on the basis that he does need to work on his tactical kicking game, and with Lambie being backed at No 10, he felt he needed the safety net Kirchner would provide.
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Kirchner was the best out-of-hand kicker in the Bok team during the southern hemisphere season, and Meyer has admitted that it was Lambie’s tactical kicking that he was most concerned about when he left him out from previous starting teams.
Along the same lines, that could explain the recall of Steyn to the bench.
“I am excited about what Pat can bring,” said Meyer in explaining why he had selected Lambie at flyhalf.
“He played very well in the last couple of Absa Currie Cup games and I am confident he will bring that momentum with him to international rugby.”
An exciting addition to the match-day squad is that of former Western Province hooker and current Saracens stalwart Schalk Brits, who Meyer is set to look at for a long-term impact role.
“Schalk is an explosive player who can bring something special off the bench,” said the Bok coach.
Meyer has also confirmed that former Lions prop Heinke van der Merwe has been added to the group as cover for Gurthro Steenkamp, who has been struggling with a calf niggle. Van der Merwe these days plays for Leinster.
The number of replacements has been stretched to eight to comply with the new IRB regulations that demand adequate front-row cover on the bench.
CJ van der Linde will wear the Springbok jersey for the first time since last year’s World Cup and Pat Cilliers returns to the bench after recovering from injury.
SPRINGBOK TEAM (no of test caps in brackets)
15 Zane Kirchner (21)
14 JP Pietersen (45)
13 Jaco Taute (2)
12 Jean de Villiers (captain) (81)
11 Francois Hougaard (24)
10 Pat Lambie (17)
9 Ruan Pienaar (60)
8 Duane Vermeulen (4)
7 Willem Alberts (17)
6 Francois Louw (14)
5 Juandré Kruger (5)
4 Eben Etzebeth (8)
3 Jannie du Plessis (39)
2 Adriaan Strauss (vice-captain) (18)
1 Tendai Mtawarira (41)
16 Schalk Brits (3)
17 CJ van der Linde (73)
18 Pat Cilliers (4)
19 Flip van der Merwe (20)
20 Marcell Coetzee (9)
21 Morné Steyn (41)
22 Juan de Jongh (12)
23 Lwazi Mvovo (7)