Cape Town – Mixed signals over Springbok coach Heyneke
Meyer’s flyhalf preference for the Castle Rugby Championship match against
Australia in Pretoria on Saturday have only added to the tension around the
“Steyn v Goosen” debate.
It will be at around 12:30 in Johannesburg on Wednesday that
under-pressure Meyer announces his side to play the Wallabies at Loftus, with
his choice in the pivotal role of No 10 – widely tipped to be between ailing
incumbent Morne Steyn and wunderkind Johan Goosen, although the admirably
in-form Elton Jantjies is also back in the squad picture – especially keenly
It seems a ding-dong choice, with the rugby public left in
some confusion by weekend media reports.
The normally influential Afrikaans Sunday newspaper Rapport
suggested that Goosen is set for his maiden start after two short but promising
stints off the bench in the away clashes against Australia and New Zealand
But some Heritage Day reports have subsequently countered
that the infinitely more seasoned Steyn is set for “one more chance” at his
favourite stamping ground.
Perhaps these conflicting smoke signals only indicate how
Meyer himself is teetering over the big call?
There can be little doubt that the majority of Bok
enthusiasts favour the 20-year-old Goosen getting his big opportunity,
especially as it would offer the hope of the national side suddenly offering up
a less predictable, potentially more attractive game-plan with a stronger
emphasis on three-quarter play.
Yet the coach continues to insist that his kick-loaded
formula is the way to go, especially if it is executed properly.
Cynics would be entitled to argue: what is the point of
sticking with the mostly one-dimensional, clearly low-on-confidence Steyn
simply because Loftus is his favourite ground?
It is not, after all, as though the Boks play just about all
of their home games at one venue, a la England at Twickenham.
Many observers urge a “brave new way” that looks well beyond
immediate considerations like the location for a particular Test match.
Still, Steyn’s mostly Pretoria-based fan club would argue
with some conviction that Loftus does tend to bring out his best qualities, not
simply as a place- and tactical-kicker but occasionally also as a crisp
distributor when the three-time champion Bulls have built a good head of
forward steam in Super Rugby and then turn on the charm in the try-scoring
Also worth considering is that the Boks embark on another
tour of a wintry northern hemisphere in November, where an expansive sort of
approach is not necessarily the correct “horse for course” and a player like
Steyn at his metronomic best can make the difference between victory in defeat
in a possible penalty-fest where good field position and uncompromising forward
play is critical.
The irony, of course, is that the Bulls favourite is currently
even misfiring to a glaring degree at his strongest suit, where the less
formulaic Goosen or Jantjies are currently just as likely to excel.
One wonders just how Jantjies – rightly or wrongly, probably
deemed no more than the No 3 option at flyhalf -- felt about his latest summons
to the Bok camp.
It is unlikely he would have whooped too loudly, if he is
once again simply going to be confined to a role that involves putting on the
various protective paraphernalia at training and being used as a “tackle
He has been playing full-bloodedly and proudly for his
endangered franchise, the Lions, in the Currie Cup and now misses, it seems (at
the very least) their important date away to Western Province on Saturday, a
couple of hours ahead of the Test kick-off.
But whatever Meyer is pondering around the critical No 10
matter, let’s sit back and wait for High Noon on Wednesday ...
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writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing
HAVE YOUR SAY: Who do you think Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer should choose for flyhalf when the team takes on the Wallabies on Saturday at Loftus? Send your thoughts to Sport24.