Coetzee and Pienaar to start for Boks
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer opted against giving the rest of his squad a run, and kept with the same players that were so impressive against Italy in Durban last week for this weekend’s test match against Scotland in Nelspruit.
Meyer made just two changes to the starting line-up and five in total as he decided to give several players a second shot and ensure some momentum rather than chopping and changing to give fringe players game time.
Both changes are enforced as Ruan Pienaar comes into the side for the injured Jano Vermaak, while Marcel Coetzee gets another starting opportunity as Francois Louw has been given the weekend off to get married on Sunday.
There will be debuts for Siya Kolisi and Piet van Zyl off the bench, while Bismark du Plessis also returns after almost a year out of rugby to be on the bench behind Adriaan Strauss.
Meyer has been adamant the entire week that the Springbok squad is not a place to rest players, not cheapen the jersey by allowing new caps for the sake of it, and backed it up with a selection that is a good mix of youth and experience.
But while some may think it is a missed opportunity, the Bok coach believes in winning first, and already feels that with two debutants this week, and another six players in the squad that have less than five caps, he can’t afford to go all out at this point and play a second string side.
Other than the two debutants, Willie le Roux (1), JJ Engelbrecht (2), Arno Botha (1), Trevor Nyakane (1), Coenie Oosthuizen (3) and Jan Serfontein (1) all have very little test experience. Add to this the fact that Bjorn Basson (7) and Juandre Kruger (9) both have less than 10 caps and it gives you 10 players out of the 23 that have less than 10 tests experience.
“I did it to keep some form of continuity. I felt we played some of the best rugby for a long time last week against Italy and I thought it doesn’t help getting the new caps in and then take them out again. I said I was going to use these three test matches to get some of those second tier guys through - even though we respect the opponents. A lot of those new players put up their hands and I thought it would be good to give them another chance,” Meyer said at the team announcement on Wednesday.
“Also, the continuity of the backline was good. Morne had one of his best games ever and we played some great rugby, so we decided to stick with a winning side.”
The Bok coach knows that his opportunities to give a less pressurized start to a Bok career are few and far between and with Scotland experiencing several injury problems, they certainly aren’t expected to be a massive threat to the Green and Gold.
And to Meyer it simply isn’t just playing every player in the squad. There needs to be a rhythm, momentum and confidence to produce a deadly cocktail that will defeat opposition and gain confidence at the same time for the newer players in the squad.
“There is a lot of talent out there, but it is to get the right mix between great attacking rugby and defence. It is only the second test and I’ll only know after the third test. It is also very great to have a guy like Siya coming into the side. I never thought we’d be able to play without Duanne Vermeulen, Francois Louw and Willem (Alberts) but suddenly the youngsters are coming through. This is great for Siya and he was always part of the plans, but last year he suffered an injury.
“We need the opportunity to look at these young players under pressure. They are the future of this team and it’s great to see them coming through. Piet van Zyl is also playing great rugby. I even phoned him and told him not to give up as he was close to the team. There are a lot of young players coming through and they bring the passion and excitement into the squad.”
Despite Chiliboy Ralepelle’s fine performance, Meyer wants Bismarck du Plessis back in the mix as quickly as possible. Some may feel this is a mistake, as there is little to be gained for Du Plessis and Meyer to play him so soon after he returns but the experience factor and the aggression he brings to the side is clearly something the Bok coach wants.
“He’s played three full games and he is a warrior. The plan is to bring him in from the bench and the medical team is 100% sure he can last 80 minutes if need be. We’re happy to have him back because he gives a lot of experience from the bench as well,” Meyer said of Du Plessis.
The squad also has another interesting quirk, with no less than eight of the 23 players selected coming from Grey College in Bloemfontein. Ruan Pienaar, Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Bismarck du Plessis, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Piet van Zyl and Jan Serfontein all call Grey their alma mater.
Springbok team: Willie le Roux, Bryan Habana, JJ Engelbrecht, Jean de Villiers (captain), Bjorn Basson, Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, Pierre Spies, Arno Botha, Marcell Coetzee, Juandre Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: Bismarck du Plessis, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Siya Kolisi, Piet van Zyl, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.