Will Jean be Heyneke’s leader?
Cape Town - Heyneke Meyer spent much of a surprisingly informative media briefing at Newlands here on Thursday stressing with a smile that he was going to have to “choose words carefully”.
It was understandable considering the multi-pronged dilemma the new Springbok coach faces as selection of his maiden team for the first Test against England in Durban on June 9 draws ever closer, yet the landscape stays foggy primarily for injury-related reasons.
He was speaking during the “Stormers leg” of his various regional Bok camps, which was moved indoors on Thursday to the Sports Science Centre as rain lashed the intended venue of the nearby SACS High School fields.
But a key feature of his informal chat with a big media scrum was the way he touted the credentials of seasoned centre Jean de Villiers - perhaps even to the extent that rumours about a fairytale Victor Matfield return may remain the stuff of fantasy.
Acting Stormers captain De Villiers is currently in sound recovery mode from a recent hand injury, and may play a role in the front-running SA franchise’s next outing against the Cheetahs at Newlands on May 12.
“I’ve been very impressed with all the captains of the franchises,” Meyer said, when asked whether he was any closer to a clearer picture on his preference as skipper after his visits to the regions and series of one-on-one interviews.
“One or two guys here impressed me as well, and I must say I’m much more at ease because there are clearly plenty of great leaders out there. I’ll probably still go for a short-term captain and see how (he) goes.
“Please don’t take these words out of context, but I’ve really been impressed with Jean as well ... I’ve been impressed with how he’s organised the backline, and he’s one of the senior players who probably will be available (despite the plague of injuries at present).”
He also slightly quelled the theory that he is always more inclined toward forwards as captains.
“It doesn’t really matter. I think what’s important is that I need someone with rugby intelligence and who can almost read my mind, considering that I’m not on the actual field.
“I also obviously want someone who has good relations with the media and displays the type of character I want off the field as well ... he must buy into my philosophy.”
Meyer said there were some good centres, and especially at No 12, putting up their hands for selection.
“Jean will probably be back in time, giving us freshness which is a positive, Wynand (Olivier) for instance is playing good rugby at inside centre ... suddenly midfield-wise we’re not bad, though it’s a pity Jaque Fourie retired as he could have offered a lot of value. But life goes on and some youngsters are sticking up their hands as well.
“Jean at No 13? That’s a very good question and one I’ve been thinking about. I must pick my words carefully again, as we’re only having our one-on-one this afternoon!
“But I’ve spoken to his fitness and conditioning coach and he told me Jean is probably the quickest he’s been. That’s definitely an option although I haven’t discussed it with the player yet – he runs great lines and has the pace, as I said.”*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing