Cape Town - JP Pietersen’s shift from wing to outside centre in the Springbok team for Saturday’s friendly international against a World XV could become permanent if his performance lights up Newlands.
The supersport.com website reports that the Cell C Sharks wing and veteran of the 2007 World Cup was shifted inside to accommodate newcomer Cornal Hendricks, who now gets an opportunity to graduate to Springbok colours in the conventional code after excelling for the Bok Sevens team.
The Newlands game is not a full international so Hendricks won’t get capped, but Meyer said he had been impressed with both the form Hendricks had shown for the Cheetahs in Super Rugby and in training this week and wanted to see if he belonged at the higher level.
"I know I said I never wanted to experiment, but this game is a good time to try something new and Cornal was brilliant in Sevens and he was awesome at times for the Cheetahs in Super Rugby and he has potential that excites me," said Meyer.
"At the same time, and I didn’t know this before, JP has informed me during one-on-one interviews that he actually prefers centre.
"It is his preferred position.
"He has played there before for the Sharks and he also play club rugby in Japan at outside centre.
"He says he enjoys it and I told him I would give him this chance to see what he can do and at the same time it gives me a chance to look at Cornal."
Asked if the switch of Pietersen was permanent, Meyer responded: "We will see how he goes on Saturday.
"It is in his hands."
Hendricks was delighted with his selection and told the media afterwards that it justified his decision to move back to the conventional code after being the Sevens Player of the Year in 2013.
"Heyneke only told me this morning about my selection and I was extremely excited to be told I would be playing on Saturday," said Hendricks.
"This is a dream come true for me and it helps that I am playing in the same back three as Willie le Roux and Bryan Habana.
"I am not really a nervous kind of person, but Bryan has been a big calming influence this week and he has helped me a lot.
"Willie and I have known each other for a long time as we played SA Academy together and both come out of the Boland."
This being a non-Test, there is an element of Meyer easing players back into the mix, and this applies particularly to Fourie du Preez, who finds himself on the bench this week even though he is one of the team’s vice-captains.
Du Preez hasn’t played any rugby since the end of the Japanese club season a few months ago, and he will be eased back as he was in the Test match against Argentina at Soccer City last August.
"Actually Ruan has been out for a while too and has only just started playing again.
"Ruan is very fit at the moment so we thought we would start with him and bring Fourie off the bench.
"I had a long conversation with both players about it and we were all in agreement that this was the way to go about it," said Meyer.
"I will probably play them a half each.
"And I will be looking to do that at lock too, with Bakkies Botha playing a half and then Flip van der Merwe playing a half."
Botha gets reunited with his long time second row partner, Victor Matfield, at Springbok level for the first time since 2011.
"We understand each other really well so I don’t think it will be a problem for us that we haven’t played together for a while.
"I just look at Victor and can tell by his body language what he is about to do," said Botha, who played in the Test against Scotland on the last end of year tour.
With Johan Goosen likely to start against Wales in Durban the following week, but Morné Steyn starting in this game, what we could see is the team adjust to the starting lineup for that game later on in the Newlands clash in some combinations. Goosen is on the bench for the World XV game.
"A week ago I had the intention of starting Johan at flyhalf in this game but I changed my mind because of the injuries that have robbed us of experience at centre," said Meyer.
"I know Frans Steyn has played a lot of games for the Boks at inside centre, but he hasn’t done so for a while.
"And Johan hasn’t played since 2012.
"So I thought it wiser to pick Morné for this first game of the season just from the viewpoint of stability.
"Frans hasn’t played for a while and this will be the first game that JP is playing as a centre at this level."
The match will represent a comeback to the green and gold for the two Schalks, Burger and Brits, with both players playing off the bench.
The starting team shows seven changes from the Springbok team that ended off last year with a win against France in Paris.
15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Bakkies Botha, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Schalk Brits, 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Flip van der Merwe, 20 Schalk Burger, 21 Fourie du Preez, 22 Johan Goosen, 23 Lwazi Mvovo