Pressure to win forcing Meyer’s hand?

That Heyneke Meyer would have selected a different side if the pressure to win on Saturday was not so great is one of the problems facing Springbok rugby says Tank Lanning in his Sport24 column, hence the “Eggs in 1 basket” strategy.

Tank Lanning

Argentina loosehead prop Marcos Ayerza, age 32, with 59 Test caps for the Pumas since making his debut against the Boks in Buenos Aires back in 2004 vs Springbok tighthead prop, Vincent Koch, age 25, with just the single Test cap after coming off the bench against the All Blacks 2 weeks ago.

Light the fire, stock the coolerbox, turn on the telly at 17h00 on Saturday, sit back, and enjoy. Because this is what Test rugby is all about – Testing oneself against the very best (a fair description of Ayerza), no matter your age or experience.

One can only hope that Koch is well and truly over the rib cartilage injury that forced him from the field at Ellis Park (and caused those dastardly granny scrums), though, because believe you me, the one thing you do not want in life as a tighthead, is saw ribs while trying to tame a wild boar who’s sole aim on Saturday in Durban will be to break your ribs!

Not only for Koch’s sake, but for the team. Because should Koch’s ribs not hold out, the man on the bench is coach Heyneke Meyer’s 4th choice tighthead, Marcel van der Merwe. A man who clearly struggled in Super Rugby this year, and to my mind, should be behind both Julian Redelinghuys and Ruan Dreyer in the pecking order. It’s a clear red flag against a team boasting the much vaunted Bajada, perhaps the best scrum in the world.

Speaking of red flags, it is going to be hellishly interesting to see how skipper Jean de Villiers goes on Saturday in his first Test start since that mind blowing knee injury. He is a super human being, a great skipper, a fantastic ambassador, and deserves a chance to lay claim to the jersey he has owned over the last few years.

It also makes sense to start him because if he does implode, you want it to be while there is someone on the bench to take over. Given the dip in pace since the injury, though, I do wonder if it should it be at 13?

Moving Jess Kriel to wing is another red flag. Remember Brent Russell and Francois Hougaard? Jack of all trades, master of none! I would have had him either ready to take over from Jean, thus getting a break, or given a chance to start at fullback, the position he has played in all season.

Do Beast Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis need yet another start? The same could be said for Ruan Pienaar and Handre Pollard, but theirs is a much greener combination looking to solidify things prior to the World Cup.

Do we even know who are third choice hooker and scrummie are, though? And if so, should they not be getting some game time? Given the rustiness shown by Cobus Reinach at Ellis Park, this seems a rhetorical question.

On Saturday Nehe Milner-Skudder will become the 9th new All Black in 4 games. Since their last game against Australia, the All Blacks have started 6 different halfback and 5 different centre combinations in 7 games.

On the surface, it looks like the Boks are also mixing and matching prior to the big event, but every change made this week, bar the De Villiers inclusion and shift of Kriel, is because of injury.

I was disturbed to see this from Meyer: “If it wasn’t South Africa you probably could have played a lot of players, but in South Africa you have to win. That’s most important.”

For a game where the result is completely inconsequential in the greater scheme of things?

That said, to win the World Cup, you only have to play 6 games in 6 weeks. Perhaps putting your eggs in one basket and playing your best side every time is the way forward?

South Africa: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Jesse Kriel, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Schalk Burger, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Vincent Koch, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira

Bench: 16 Adriaan Strauss, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Cobus Reinach, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Lwazi Mvovo


  1. Totally agree want to add if we are looking at combinations why not bring the whole front row of the Lions on.Confidence is a great morale booster and these guys are not inexperienced they know how to scrum. Lood and Etsebeth have given our front row a solid platform.JdV two edged sword can get injured very slow and changing a combination Kriel and Allende pure folley.

  2. Got to agree Tank. Meyer’s a good coach, but hampered by the thought that he has to win every game.

    People put too much stock on winning averages. There are hounds in the public ready to criticise Meyer because he didn’t win as many against the All Blacks as PDivvy did. He’s been constantly compared with White (whose WC win saved his tenure) and De Villiers.

    Plus, he’s been seen as anti-transformation, so you get everyone out for your blood when results don’t go your way. The best way to keep the hounds at bay is to keep winning, and this has effectively resulted in Meyer playing an “all eggs in one basket” strategy.

    That strategy is good so long as your key players remain fit and don’t get injured. When they do end up getting injured (Vermuelen, Fourie du Preez, JDV, Matfield), you reap the consequences because your second string hasn’t been tested enough.

    Funnily enough, I guess Steve Hansen would be in the same boat if Aaron Smith got injured and the All Blacks got knocked out early. Rettalick and Whitelock play a lot of rugby and if both picked up knocks, the AB’s would be in trouble- Romano and Broadhurst/Thrush are ok, but not at the same level. Guys in the press like Rattue would have a field day.

    Hansen’s gambles have mostly paid off, Meyer’s have not.

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