Rugby Championship

Meyer’s No 10: knife-edge wait

2012-09-24 22:43
Heyneke Meyer (Gallo)
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 awaited.

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 respectively.

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 department.

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 object”.

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 ...

*Follow our chief 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.

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