Rudy Paige (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said the decision to choose between scrumhalves Rudy Paige and Cobus Reinach was a tough one, but that Paige’s kicking game and service won it for him in the end.
According to supersport.com, eyebrows were raised when Paige, who has not been capped in a test yet, was chosen as the third scrumhalf alongside Fourie du Preez and Ruan Pienaar, with Reinach, who has been part of the match day 23 in the current international season, being left out of the squad.
Questions have been raised about why Paige hasn’t been given an opportunity to play at test level despite being part of the squad for the past three months, and why he was chosen ahead of a player who has been very much part of the Bok plans for the past two seasons?
But Meyer believes that Paige’s similarities to Fourie du Preez makes him a better fit for the Bok game plan. Reinach’s form has dipped of late and possibly counted against him when the final decision was made.
“Rudy Paige played very well in Super Rugby, he was selected ahead of a guy like Francois Hougaard at the Bulls. When Rudy joined the group, I told him to work on a few things and he has really good service from the base. I see him as a similar player to Fourie du Preez. It was a tough decision, and I feel for Cobus,” Meyer explained.
Asked why he had not given Paige a chance at test level yet, but felt he was good enough to go to the Rugby World Cup, Meyer said the plan was always to play him against Argentina but then the Boks lost the first game between the two sides in Durban and the pressure set in.
“I took him (Paige) on tour last year,” Meyer explained.
“Unfortunately he got injured ahead of the game against Wales and I had to call for a replacement. It was always my plan to give him game time this year in Buenos Aires, but then we let ourselves down against Argentina in Durban.
“I said to the players that the same group would have a chance to set things right the following week in Buenos Aires. They had to fix it.
“But I don’t think one test makes that big a difference. And we have two very experienced nines in Fourie and Ruan, so it’s a good balance. Rudy knows what type of rugby we want to play. From day one I said Rudy you have a chance to go if you work on a few things. I’m happy with him, and I think he’s improved since he’s been with us. He did well in Super Rugby. I feel for Cobus, it was a very close decision but I think Rudy is the right guy.
“It was a close decision between Cobus and Rudy. In the end, I looked at what Rudy can offer in those conditions. He has an unbelievable kicking game, especially in wet conditions. Great service, and that’s what we need.”
Forwards: Willem Alberts, Schalk Brits, Schalk Burger, Lood de Jager, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Francois Louw, Frans Malherbe, Victor Matfield (vice-captain), Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss, Duane Vermeulen
Backs: Jean de Villiers (captain), Damian de Allende, Fourie du Preez, Bryan Habana, Zane Kirchner, Jesse Kriel, Pat Lambie, Willie le Roux, Lwazi Mvovo, Rudy Paige, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Handre Pollard, Morne Steyn