Boks to alter more next week?

2014-06-18 14:31
Heyneke Meyer (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - Clean up the Wales series, then consider some meaningful “rotation” against Scotland next Saturday.

That may well be the back-of-mind intention of Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer after he predictably named a little-changed starting XV on Wednesday for the second Test against the Welsh at Mbombela Stadium (Saturday, 15:00).

The only switch not linked in any way to injury is the return of Tendai Mtawarira at loosehead prop to resume his long-time alliance in the front row with Sharks colleagues Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis.

That means a speedy demotion to the bench for French-based former Bulls favourite Gurthrö Steenkamp, who started the first encounter in Durban to mark his 50th cap and put in a healthy 45-minute scrummaging and general shift before “Beast” provided an impact role for the final 35.

His fairly economical use in the up-tempo 38-16 triumph should ensure that Mtawarira, who has been exhaustingly employed at all levels thus far in 2014, has some semblance of freshness as the Boks attempt to land the series sweep at Nelspruit.

The other alteration is at No 4 lock, where veteran hard man Bakkies Botha makes way for Flip van der Merwe as he has been nursing a mild Achilles tendon strain and caution was employed as a result - with 34 Test appearances already to his name and pretty similar playing style, Van der Merwe should fit in extremely seamlessly.

But the entire backline, who were responsible for four of the Boks’ five tries at Kings Park and revelled in Willie le Roux’s sorcery from the last line, has been returned en masse, giving the overall team a look of satisfying stability and continuity.

On that note, this writer would not be surprised if Meyer - even if a little reluctantly, given that he is loath to simply “hand out” starts - has targeted safe passage to a 2-0 outcome in this mini-series, and will then ring more significant changes for the one-off game against the Scots a week later in Port Elizabeth.

Several of his men, and most notably the Super Rugby title-hunting Sharks contingent, are dangerously close to burn-out and it seems a sensible idea to limit a handful of them to a bench presence - perhaps at best? - for the match against a side so often the weakest of the four Home Unions in the Friendly City.

That way, he could infuse various, regular members of his “A-team” as substitutes if the going gets unexpectedly hairy during the second half against Scotland ... and perhaps hardly have a need to rumble them into action at all because a pleasing feature of Meyer’s regime is the depth and hunger among individuals he is intelligently building in most positions.

Already most signs point to the Scots being significantly weaker opponents to the Welsh, as evidenced by the 51-3 result between those teams in hometown favour in Cardiff at the end of the 2014 Six Nations.

Scotland ended fifth, only staving off the wooden spoon by seeing off Italy by a point in Rome for their lone victory.

More recent matches offer little to suggest a Scottish renaissance is at hand: on Saturday they laboured to a 19-17 triumph over minnows Canada in Toronto, helped by the fact that Canadian loose forward Jebb Sinclair - no stranger to Stormers enthusiasts - was controversially red-carded in the last few minutes for allegedly “leading with an elbow”.

Meyer can hardly be blamed for sticking overwhelmingly to a tried and trusted formula for the second Wales clash, but if ever he was going to grab an opportunity for useful experimentation a year out from another World Cup, next weekend’s fixture seems as attractive a chance as he might ever receive ...



15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Flip van der Merwe ,3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Wynand Olivier, 23 Lwazi Mvovo



*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  heyneke meyer  |  rugby

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