Tank Lanning

Meyer takes conservative road

2014-11-20 08:23
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
The interesting thing to come out of yesterday’s Springbok team announcement was less about the actual match day 23, but more about coach Heyneke Meyer feeling the need to explain or justify the selections of Nizaam Carr and Julian Redelinghuys on the bench.

“Nizaam can cover all the positions in the back-row and his call-up is just-reward after a very good season. Julian has been superb for the Lions this season and he’s shown that he can scrum. Both of them are now familiar with our plays and structures and I’m looking forward to see what they can bring on Saturday”, said the Springbok coach.

No need coach. The rest of South Africa have been believers for a long time. The explanation should have been about why they are not starting, not justifying their existence on the bench. Along with reasons for the conservative selection in general.

As England and the All Blacks go heavily experimental against Samoa and Scotland respectively, so the Boks, playing a side ranked well below those two (Italy are 14th, Samoa 11th and Scotland eighth), make just the single experimental selection.

Given that Jannie du Plessis and Schalk Burger had to be replaced, the selections of both Coenie Oosthuizen and Oupa Mohoje are enforced, with both being “next in line” picks based on the Meyer pecking order. Beast Mtawarira is rested so in comes next in line, Trevor Nyakane, in a deserved rotation that will not weaken the side.

Leaving the only truly experimental selection as that of Johan Goosen at fullback. And given that he was brought into the 36-man squad as a fullback, perhaps not even that pick can be deemed experimental. This as the 2nd best side in the world take on the 14th ranked side in the world.

A week or two back, Meyer mentioned his concern about being thought of as “stupid and conservative” by South Africans back home. Stupid he is most certainly not, but it’s pretty damn difficult to argue against the conservative part, though.

Which is not all bad, and to be honest, a little bit woven into the fabric of South African sport. We tend toward sticking to what has worked, rather than pioneering new techniques at the bleeding edge of sporting evolution. Which has its advantages given that you let others make the errors before treading a more guaranteed path.

But it would have been quite fun to have seen Meyer buck the trend a little this weekend. Especially given that the sun will still come up on Sunday if an experimental Bok side were to go down to the Italians with a new look side looking to build squad depth in a year before a World Cup.

The Boks lose JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana to their respective overseas clubs next week, so Meyer is no doubt waiting for the Wales game to give the likes of Lwazi Mvovo and Seabela Senatla a run, but getting them involved this week might have made more sense. Mvovo ahead of Habana in the run on XV, and given that JP can play fullback, Senatla ahead of Willie le Roux, who is carrying an injury, on the bench, would have been my call.

Also, we know what Mohoje can do, and given that it is yet to be game changing, if making the call to stick with Duane Vermeulen and Marcel Coetzee, this seems an ideal opportunity to start Carr and have Jaco Kriel on the bench.

Having a look at Damien de Allende at 13 would also not have been the worst call, and given that Goosen can play flyhalf, Jan Serfontein could have sat on the bench in place of Handre Pollard, which would give both De Allende and Meyer some comfort.

Up front, I am nervous, but given the faith Meyer has placed in Oosthuizen, he had no other choice at tighthead. It’s now time for the Cheetahs loosehead to repay the coach. The Italian front row did not go too badly against the Bajada last weekend, and now we have the Cheetahs front row, not always dominant in the Currie Cup, let alone Super Rugby, taking on martin Castrogiovanni and co. Squeaky bum time!

Introducing new blood to a squad is a tricky business and best done regularly, in different positions, so they get to play with experienced players. Or, en masse, but with the old hands on the bench to right any ship that tilts too far to Starboard. I am not sure Meyer has quite got this one right yet.

Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

Read more on:    springboks  |  tank lanning  |  rugby

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