Brüssow lifeline on the cards
Heinrich Brüssow (Gallo Images)
Hazyview - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer obviously changed his mind between last Monday over how he would use the first two Test matches of the Castle Incoming Tours Series, but Francois Louw’s wedding this weekend has at least ensured that the net will be spread wider in one crucial area.
According to the SuperSport website, Meyer is concerned enough about who will back up Louw’s ball scavenging skills that he has even mentioned Heinrich Brüssow, a regular Springbok in the Peter de Villiers era and often a match-winner, as a possible alternative should Marcell Coetzee and Siya Kolisi not excel at the breakdown in Saturday’s match against Scotland in Nelspruit.
Meyer said in Umhlanga Rocks on the first Monday of the tour that he would use the matches against Italy at Kings Park and Scotland at the Mbombela Stadium to give as many players in the squad as possible an opportunity to play.
It was no secret then that he was intending playing a different halfback combination, with Patrick Lambie slated to start at No 10 in Nelspruit.
Meyer denies it was the quality of the performance put in against Italy in Durban that prompted him to stick with mostly the same combinations this week.
But then he also did say that the team had played so well last week that he wanted them to get another chance to build on their previous performance.
On some levels, that makes sense, though if promises were made to players and plans were changed, that would obviously not be a good thing.
Will Meyer call up the extra players for the last match in Pretoria on Saturday week?
Perhaps he will, but he was less clear on Wednesday than he was the previous week on the subject of giving the back-up players a chance.
"The thing is that everyone seems to be assuming that the players want a rest because they have played so much, but that is not the case," said Meyer.
"They want to wear the Springbok jersey in as many test matches as possible. At Test level, they don’t want to rest.
"And neither is it the stage where they should be rested. Selection is a difficult business.
"I need to balance up a lot of things, and the soul-searching normally starts immediately after the previous test finishes."
That may be so, and Meyer is right when he says the franchise coaches aren’t playing ball by resting players when they should be rested, but his stance does take away his right to complain about it if there is a wave of injuries brought on by over-use during the Rugby Championship for he does have an opportunity now to use his top players more sparingly.
And while Meyer is taking every opportunity to voice his respect for Scotland, in reality if the Boks can’t put away the team that lost to Samoa last weekend then South African rugby is way behind where it should be at this point.
Scotland came to the country depleted and they’ve lost further key players since the tour started.
At least though Louw’s absence on Saturday will avail Meyer of the opportunity to see what the back-up at No. 6 has to offer.
The word “fetcher” is an overused one and coaches rightly shy away from it, tending to produce that cliché about all 15 players being capable of winning back the ball on the ground and in contact.
At the same time though, it would be naïve to ignore the fact that most teams do have specialists who, to coin another cliché, play to the ball, and last year’s final Test against England in Port Elizabeth, when the big ball carrying presence of Willem Alberts was absent, showed up the folly of not having one.
When Alberts was there to carry, Marcell Coetzee could concentrate on more of a scavenging role, but when he wasn’t, Coetzee found himself too thinly spread across the different functions of a loose-forward.
Coetzee gets another chance to wear the No. 6 at the weekend after being displaced by Louw during last season’s Rugby Championship, and Meyer is hoping that he will show that he can make a strong fist of the role of being the premier ball scavenger, a role that becomes even more important in the absence of Duane Vermeulen.
The Stormers No. 8 joined Louw in playing to the ball last season.
"I’m not yet convinced that Marcell can play that role at the breakdown.
"We already have Flo (Louw) in that position, but we need a back-up that can also perform that role and have the same influence."
“I want to build a big squad of 35 players to take forward to the 2015 World Cup and this is a big opportunity for players like Marcell and Siya Kolisi (who is on the bench on Saturday).
"They have to show me that they can specialise in that role.
"I will have to consider other options.
"Even a guy like Heinrich Brüssow will come into contention.”
That last comment will please many, and if it is an indication that Meyer is flexible enough to change his views that is a positive, but it is a contradiction of his line from last year.
Back then he said that Brüssow was too limited in the sense that he doesn’t offer strong ball carrying abilities and physicality in defence.
In other words, it’s a size issue.