Guthro, Juan in team to face Scotland
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer did what he was expected to do on Wednesday by keeping changes to the team to play Scotland at Murrayfield to a minimum.
There are just two changes to the team that started against Ireland at the Aviva Stadium last week, with Juan de Jongh coming in to the side at outside centre in a change that the coach had already thrown forward to in a press conference on Monday.
What was less certain was what he was going to do at loosehead prop as both CJ van der Linde and Gurthro Steenkamp trained there this week, but in the end he opted for Steenkamp.
“Gurthro is an experienced player and we need that as a replacement for Beast Mtawarira,” said Meyer.
“Juan needed to get a chance because he has played so well all year and I would really like to see what he can do at this level. He has been great in training, a really good, positive and loyal team man and I want to reward him for the hard work he has put in.”
Meyer has been criticised for leaving De Jongh out of his plans in the earlier part of the season, but the player said that he had always known where he stood with Meyer.
“A lot of people have said things but right from the beginning Heyneke told me where I stood and what I needed to do and I always understood the plan,” said the Western Province centre.
“This is a great opportunity to show what I can do. I know there are people who think maybe I haven’t been selected before because of a perception I might be a bit small for an international centre, but I will just go out and try and prove them wrong.
"I do feel confident after the performance in the Currie Cup final and it is now just up to me to ensure that I bring my A game on Saturday.”
De Jongh’s selection into the team actually boosts the number of caps. Jaco Taute, the man who De Jongh replaces in the starting team, has played only three times for his country, whereas De Jongh has played 12 times.
He has not been involved as a member of the starting team this year, but has been a Springbok for three years and will bring experience to the mix in addition to his stepping skills.
“I always wanted to play Juan, it was my intention from the start of the tour, but I felt that it would be a risk to make too many changes for the Ireland test as it might have had a negative impact on our progress defensively,” said Meyer.
“This was a tough selection for me to make as I know that, without mentioning any names, there are several young players who would love to play and who probably deserve a chance and can help us build depth.
"However, I had to weigh that up against the need to give the players who are part of the starting team more experience, and continuity brings confidence as well as experience as we build towards the next World Cup.”
What Meyer is particularly pleased about is the way his policy of continuity in selection is now starting to pay off as almost unnoticed several players begin to accumulate enough caps to be considered experienced.
“There are now only three players in the starting team who have not got out of double figures in terms of number of test caps, and Eben Etzebeth has now played nine games.
"The inexperience was evident when I noticed on the bus the other day that Morne Steyn and Francois Hougaard, who used be among the inexperienced guys at the front of the bus a year ago, are now both sitting at the back.
“It is going to be important for us to allow the players who will be used at the 2015 World Cup to accumulate enough caps so that by the time we get to England in three years from now they will have 30 or 40 caps.”
It’s going to be interesting to see how Meyer uses his bench this week. For instance he does have the option of bringing Taute, who has dropped to the bench, on as a fullback, the position that Meyer would like to see him settle.
SPRINGBOK TEAM: Zane Kirchner, JP Pietersen, Juan de Jongh, Jean de
Villiers (captain), Francois Hougaard, Pat Lambie, Ruan Pienaar, Duane
Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Juandre Kruger, Eben Etzebeth,
Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Gurthro Steenkamp.
Schalk Brits, Heinke van der Merwe, CJ van der Linde, Flip van der Merwe,
Marcell Coetzee, Morne Steyn, Jaco Taute, Lwazi Mvovo.