A sneak preview of Tank Lanning’s column for Sport24 today …
As Heyneke Meyer looks to the next Springbok outing against Argentina at Newlands on the 18th of August, the first of the all new and desperately named “Rugby Championship” matches, has the England series given him answers or posed more questions?
Rightfully happy with the series win, given that was his primary goal as the new Springbok coach, and no doubt relatively excited knowing that when this Bok side does play the kind of rugby they are capable of, they are good enough to beat any team in the world.
But, and there are a few buts’, he now faces several selection posers, and after only playing to their potential for around 30% of the tour (second half of the first Test and first half of the second Test) , he now needs to build some consistency.
The latter should flow from the former, so a look at Meyer’s selection posers …
Tighthead – While Jannie du Plessis will not be making too many World XV’s, I think any questions surrounding whether he is the man for the Bok job can be put to bed. He is. It’s the backup that is in question. Coenie Oosthuizen did look the part when called upon in the first Test, but that was only for a few scrums, and he is now recovering from a neck operation. Werner Kruger hit reverse gear in the scrums when brought on in the second and third Tests, and does not look like a long term option. While injury prone, CJ van der Linde is still a good bench option as he can definitely play both sides. The Cheetah’s WP Nel was starting to come into some form but he is now heading overseas. Stocks are pretty thin at tighthead, and this has to concern Meyer.
Blind side flank – The Boks missed the rampaging Willem Alberts massively in Port Elizabeth. And while it was his first Test, and he was coming back from injury, Jacques Potgieter does not look like an International player. The return of Jean Deysel or Schalk Burger will solve that problem, while Siya Kolisi will be pushing hard for a start come August.
8th man – The return of Duane Vermeulen from injury cannot come quickly enough. Pierre Spies showed glimpses of what he is capable of against England, but still seemed to go missing when it really counted – like when coming face to face against a brick outhouse like Thomas Waldrom.
Open side flank – Marcell Coetzee impressed me no end, and did very little wrong. But he seemed to be between games – not really a fetcher, and not really a massive ball carrier. And with Richie McCaw and David Pocock so prominent for the Kiwis and Aussies, it just makes sense to recall Heinrich Brussow as an out and out open sider. Just imagine a loose trio comprising Brussow, Alberts and Vermeulen! Coetzee would then be the perfect man for the bench.
Lock – With the Bok lineout showing a few creaks, and Andries Bekker making a return to Super Rugby, yet still suffering from a long term back injury, does Meyer bring him in at 5 as head of the Bok lineout to replace the promising Juandre Kruger?
Scrumhalf – Francois Hougaard, barring the superlative first 45 minutes of the second Test, was sluggish with his service, and mostly shown up by Ruan Pienaar. Does Meyer make the switch? Hougaard is a proven impact player, and would be a massive asset on the bench.
Flyhalf – Morne Steyn, when on song with the boot, is a no brainer for the Meyer gameplan. However, Steyn kicking poorly out of hand and at poles is a real problem. Does he stick with him or go with a more attacking flyhalf like Peter Grant or Pat Lambie? I see value in both options but would not mind seeing one of the latter at the helm, perhaps getting the backline away a little better.
Centre – Skipper Jean de Villiers and Frans Steyn formed a fantastic combination, with the much maligned Wynand Olivier playing well in a poor side in PE. But with the hugely exciting Robert Ebersohn, Tim Whitehead, Jan Serfontein, Juan de Jongh, JJ Engelbrecht and even Johann Sadie when on form, available, is Wynand Olivier the man when one of De Villiers or Steyn is out of action?
Fullback – Pat Lambie confirmed that he is the man for the job, but if Meyer were to use him at flyhalf, the contenders would then be Zane Kirchner, Gio Aplon and Joe Pietersen. None would let Meyer down, but the Sharks man stands head and shoulders above the three, which then limits Meyer’s options at flyhalf …
It’s not all bad for, as most of these posers come as a result of the vast array of talent at his disposal, but after his first series at the helm, one gets the feeling that Heyneke Meyer has created more questions than answers.