Meyer's Bok bolters

Wed, 05 Sep 2012 04:58
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Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer stuck to his word and made a number of changes to his under-performing team.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer stuck to his word and made a number of changes to his under-performing team for South Africa's Rugby Championship encounter with Australia in Perth on Saturday.

The most significant change is moving Francois Hougaard to the wing and naming Ruan Pienaar at scrumhalf - one of five changes from the starting team that played Argentina in Mendoza recently.

The other big bolter is the inclusion of young Free State Cheetahs flyhalf Johan Goosen on the bench.

Stormers and Western Province loose forward Duane Vermeulen will make his debut at No.8 in a revamped loose forward combination.

Vermeulen's inclusion at No.8 sees Willem Alberts move to the flank in place of the under-performing Jacques Potgieter.

Bath import Francois Louw will provide cover and an openside option from the bench.

Veteran lock Andries Bekker paid the price for his poor performance in the 16-all draw with Argentina in Mendoza a fortnight ago and has been dropped from the matchday 22, with Juandré Kruger starting alongside Eben Etzebeth at lock and Flip van der Merwe providing cover on the bench.

It is widely believed the 2.08m Bekker - who was labelled as "pathetic" by former Bok coach Nick Mallett, following his poor game, especially on defence, in Mendoza - is struggling to regain his best form because of ongoing back problems.

Hooker and vice-captain Adriaan Strauss has been included in the starting XV after coming through a first set of fitness tests, following a knee injury. He will be given until Friday to make a full recovery.

"We've decided to put Duane straight into the starting team because he is a classic No.8, a position we've lacked in since Pierre Spies got injured and Ryan Kankowski moved to Japan," Meyer told a media briefing in Perth on Wednesday.

"I've always admired the way Duane plays rugby and he's fitted in very well the past week. He would've been a Springbok years ago if it had not been for injuries and it's great to finally see him selected.

"The same goes for Johan [Goosen], who in my mind can become one of the great flyhalves in world rugby. I've been very impressed with his work ethic and attitude since he joined the squad on Thursday in Johannesburg and we will keep on managing him carefully over the next few weeks."

Commenting on the other changes to the team, Meyer said: "Ruan [Pienaar] brings a more tactical approach to scrumhalf, while I've always been impressed with Francois at wing.

"At lock we've decided to go for Juandré as he plays more to the ball. Juandré and Eben played well as a combination in the June Tests against England.

"By including Francois on the bench, we have a specialist openside flank, but also a versatile loose forward that brings a bit more balance to our back row mix."

The Springbok team boast a total of 451 Test caps: 339 of those are in the backline, while the forwards have 112 caps - just one more than the total number of Bok caps accumulated by former captain John Smit in his career.

South Africa: 15. Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Francois Louw, 20 Johan Goosen, 21 Patrick Lambie, 22 Lwazi Mvovo.

Date: Saturday, September 8
Venue: Paterson's Stadium, Perth
Kick-off: 18.00 AWST (20.00 AEST; 12.00 SA time; 10.00 GMT)
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
TMO: Matt Goddard (Australia)