How Flo changed Meyer’s mind
Francois Louw (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer
admits he was “tentative” at first over the engagement of overseas-based players to bolster his plans, but the infusion recently of Francois Louw
altered his thinking.
Speaking at a Bok media briefing here on Wednesday, ahead of the three-match northern hemisphere tour, Meyer said: “I can just see what a huge influence Francois has had on the team. I’d never worked with him before this; only seen his games.
“You only get a sense of a player once you’ve seen what he can bring to the table. It was a long shot then, and I think he’s one of the best open-siders in the world now.
“He’s really played well against (All Blacks captain) Richie McCaw in both (Castle Rugby Championship) games.”
Earlier, Bok team doctor Craig Roberts had confirmed that the news of Bath-based Louw’s neck injury a few days ago was positive, to the extent that he may even play for his English club this weekend before hooking up with the Boks for the Test against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday, November 10.
Since successfully calling up former Stormers and WP stalwart Louw, Meyer has also summoned hooker Schalk Brits (Saracens) and established Bok Gurthrö Steenkamp (Toulouse) to his squad for the end-of-year trip.
He added: “If you can introduce those sorts of players to the set-up and the culture they’re just much more positive and know what to expect. We’ve got a great vibe going in the group.
“I’ve worked with Gurthrö before and know what he can do when he’s fit; I haven’t worked with Schalk and he’s a fine impact player, and very experienced now - he left South Africa as a youngster.
“I’ll give them opportunity to fit into the team and I want a guy to be able to be long-term for us.
“(In terms of loosehead prop Steenkamp) you need big scrummagers, especially in Europe. I’ve coached there myself and in Europe every single scrum is a battle and they scrum for penalties, so if you don’t have a great big scrum going forward, you’ll struggle.”
The Bok coach also lifted the lid a little on his intentions for other players on tour.
Of rookie Cheetahs wing Raymond Rhule, 19, Meyer said: “I’ve always said I won’t just throw players to the wolves, I’ve always eased certain players in.
“I’ve never worked before with Raymond Rhule so before I just throw a player in I want to first see how mentally tough he is and see him train with the squad.
“It’s more a question of taking him with us and getting him used to the game-plan because I believe he could definitely play for us at the next World Cup.”
It probably suggests that versatile Francois Hougaard
will, initially at least, retain his berth out wide on the park.
“At this stage I will probably mostly look at Francois as wing. At scrumhalf, in those conditions, Ruan (Pienaar) has good knowledge and has done well.”
Asked whether he felt Sharks favourite Patrick Lambie
had done enough in the Currie Cup campaign to be a credible challenger for the Bok flyhalf spot, Meyer responded: “I have said to Patrick, and I’ve always been open with him, that if he wants to be a ten, especially as the next World Cup will be in England, he has to be able to kick tactically more. You need a tactical ten.
“But he has really improved and you can see he’s worked hard. He’ll definitely be a contender there. I think he’ll be a great ten going forward, but by saying that, after this year, I want to stick with two tens who I’ll know can be guys to play in a World Cup.”
Probed by Sport24 over whether he might consider switching Eben Etzebeth
to the No 5 lock role, in order to be able to accommodate another bruising customer for the heavy European pitches like Flip van der Merwe in the starting line-up, Meyer said: “Flip has really played well this year and Eben been exceptional.
“In a sense you’d love to have two guys who really put in the grafting work; tough guys in overseas conditions.
“But the set-piece is also so important over there ... I’d love to play them together, so maybe off the bench (they could become allied).
“But to start them ... Eben has been brilliant (at four) but they haven’t called a lot of lineouts together, and it’s such a technical area these days, requiring a lot of preparation.
“I believe we will need a specialist five lock in those conditions. I did look at a guy like (Ulster-based) Johann Muller for the tour but he is also injured.
“We did consider Bakkies (Botha), and I’ve coached him since he was 19, but Victor (Matfield) was mostly the guy who organised the lineouts, with Bakkies purely the enforcer.
“If you have Bakkies there, who do you move to five? Bakkies is also not really a guy for a bench role. If we get an injury at four, Bakkies would be the standby man. But for No 5 we’ve also looked at Marco Wentzel, the top lineout taker in the Premiership, been in contact with him, and he’s on standby.”*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing