Meyer sticks with his winners
SPRINGBOK coach Heyneke Meyer yesterday pinned his hopes of a series victory against England at Ellis Park on Saturday on the same players who ground out victory in Durban in the opening Test.
But he warned his charges that success would require a vastly improved performance from last week.
As expected, the only change to Meyer's starting team was at fullback, where Pat Lambie replaced the injured Zane Kirchner (knee), and on the bench, where tighthead prop Werner Kruger replaced Coenie Oosthuizen, who was ruled out with a neck injury. Bjorn Basson fills the void left by Lambie.
A victory for the Boks this weekend would not only prove that the team is on the right track to success under Meyer, it would also mark the first big milestone in his coaching Bok term as it would seal the series victory against England.
So high has Meyer set his standards that he noted that the quality of the Boks' performance in the opening Test was not even 5% of what he expected. Explaining the decision to opt for Kruger over Dean Greyling, and Basson over Gio Aplon on the bench, Meyer said Kruger's selection was partly because star tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis was nursing a calf injury, while Basson was more familiar with the calls and his team-mates as he had been with the team since last week.
In the absence of a specialist fullback on the bench, versatile back Frans Steyn, who has established himself as Meyer's star inside centre, will move to fullback if Lambie is injured, while Ruan Pienaar and Basson could provide cover if required.
Despite Kirchner's tactical kicking earning him the nod at No15 last week, Meyer expected Lambie's presence to add a different dimension to the game this week. But he admitted to having spoken to Lambie about his tactical kicking.
"Pat is still a youngster, but he is a great player and he brings something different to the party," said Meyer. "In the first Test I opted for tested combinations, especially in the back three, but I thought he (Lambie) was superb in the second half and he introduced different attacking options . it was an easy decision to bring him in as he has been the form player (this season)."
Of the difference between Lambie's and Kirchner's tactical kicking, Meyer said: "Lambie is a good kicker, but I want him to improve . he is working hard on it. However, we are not losing much there (in tactical kicking) with the change."
While Meyer took comfort from the fact that first-match jitters in the squad are now over, he warned his men to expect a backlash from England and said a win would require vastly improved form.
"I'll be honest, the team is not 5% of where I want them to be," said the coach. "But I don't believe one can find a coach who can make massive changes in two weeks. It (Test rugby) involves a lot of luck and great players . the side is much more relaxed this week and the training sessions have been sharper. But we have to improve. It will be important to enter the clash with the same physicality and mind-set because England will improve their game, so we need to lift our intensity as well."
Pat Lambie; JP Pietersen, Jean de Villiers (capt), Frans Steyn, Bryan Habana; Morné Steyn, Francois Hougaard; Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee; Juandré Kruger, Eben Etzebeth; Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Werner Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Keegan Daniel, Ruan Pienaar, Wynand Olivier, Bjorn Basson.
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