Boks aim to find a balance
Heyneke Meyer (Gallo Images)
Soweto - South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer is a realist rather than a romantic and that is set to show when they confront New Zealand in a Rugby Championship final round fixture at Soccer City on Saturday.
The Springboks handled the ball far more in a five-try 31-8 demolition of Australia in Pretoria last weekend than in the three previous rounds of the southern hemisphere competition.
Gone were the generally over-hit field kicks that gave even the South African hares no chance of getting to the dropping ball before a rival, and contributed to a lucky draw in Argentina and avoidable losses in Australia and New Zealand.
But Meyer, who succeeded outspoken Peter de Villiers this year on a four-year contract with the aim of reclaiming the Rugby World Cup in 2015, believes a run-at-all-cost approach against the All Blacks would be suicidal.
"The key to victory will be striking a balance between running and kicking," he told reporters ahead of a Soweto showdown between the teams lying first and second on the table and ranked first and second in the world.
"There is always pressure on home teams to run a lot with the ball and that is exactly what the All Blacks like. If you give them turnovers, they will punish you.
"Naturally, we want to play great rugby and score tries, but we must find a balance between when to attack and when to play tactically," stressed the former Bulls coach who turns 45 on the day of the Test.
"You are never going to defeat New Zealand by playing their game. They have quality athletes from No 15 to No 1 and, fortunately, we also have some good game-breakers now."
After two victories, a draw and two losses, Meyer accepts the New Zealand Test will define his Rugby Championship campaign, with the green and gold needing two points to be certain of finishing second ahead of Australia.
It has been a sharp learning curve for the ex-Leicester Tigers coach, who eventually chose loose forward Francois Louw from English club Bath after initially believing the team did not need a 'fetcher'.
He also sacked long-time flyhalf Morne Steyn after four missed place kicks in Dunedin last month, where the Springboks lost the Test 21-11 as much as the All Blacks won it.
A painful bruised heel restricted new 20-year-old playmaker Johan Goosen against Australia at Loftus Versfeld, but he demonstrated a desire to attack the advantage line that deep-lying Steyn never did.
While South Africa named an unchanged team, New Zealand made two alterations to the side that overwhelmed Argentina 54-15 in La Plata last weekend with left wing Hosea Gear and lock Brodie Retallick promoted.
Gear takes over from Julian Savea, Retallick comes in for Luke Romano and bench alterations see Ben Franks, Adam Thompson and Tamati Ellison replace Charlie Faumuina, Sam Cane and Ben Smith respectively.
Meyer lavished praise on the greatest rivals of the Springboks, calling flank and skipper Richie McCaw "one of the greatest players of all time" and acknowledging the huge threat posed by star flyhalf Dan Carter.
South Africa and New Zealand share the record for consecutive Test wins by a top-tier nation with 17 each and if the All Blacks succeed in Soweto, Australia (October 20) and Scotland (November 12) stand between them and 18 in a row.
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Jaco Taute, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Elton Jantjies, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Patrick Lambie
15 Israel Dagg, 14 Cory Jane, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Dan Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Richie McCaw (captain), 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Andrew Hore, 1 Tony Woodcock
Substitutes: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Ben Franks, 18 Luke Romano, 19 Adam Thomson, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 Tamati Ellison