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Bekker's back is not 100 percent

Wed, 05 Sep 2012 16:25
Andries-bekker-with-boks-63 Duan-vermeulen-h_s-630 Francois-louw-_-juandre-kru Heyneke-meyer-presser-630
He may not be as experienced as Andries, but he does play more to the ball
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Suspicions that veteran Springbok lock Andries Bekker is still struggling to shake off injuries have proven to be spot on.

It was revealed on Wednesday, when Bok coach Heyneke Meyer unveiled his team for the Rugby Championship Test against the Wallabies in Perth on Saturday, that Bekker is still in some discomfort - with back and ankle problems.

Meyer named a team that will see No.8 Duane Vermeulen make his Springbok debut - one of five changes from the starting team that played Argentina in Mendoza recently.

Willem Alberts shifts from No.8 to flank.

However, the more significant change up front sees a recall for lock Juandré Kruger, while Bekker drops out of the matchday 22 altogether.

Meyer said the axing of Bekker was twofold.

"We know what we have in Andries [Bekker], he is a quality player," the Bok mentor told a media scrum in Perth.

"He came through a few injuries [back and ankle] and [is] probably not 100 percent fit.

"Juandré played very well against England, [where] I was very happy with his performance. He may not be as experienced as Andries, but he does play more to the ball and that is what we will need on Saturday."

Meyer admitted that Bekker's poor performance in the 16-all draw with the Argentineans in Mendoza contributed to his axing.

"I wasn't happy with our cleaning and how we recycled the ball [against Argentina in Mendoza]," he said, adding that injuries remain a big factor.

"Unfortunately Andries has been struggling with injuries the whole year ... his back is almost there and his ankle is almost there.

"I just felt I needed to give him a break, so that he can be 100 percent fit when we play New Zealand [in Dunedin next week].

"You need two quality locks, given the [risk of] injuries and you need a squad system. Both locks [Bekker and Kruger] will feature in the future as well."

Meyer said he is comfortable that Duane Vermeulen - who has played just 100 minutes of Currie Cup rugby since coming back from a serious knee injury - would be up for the challenge in Perth.

"Duane [Vermeulen] has fitted in superbly," he said of the burly loose forward, adding: "He is a great lined-out jumper, which gives us an extra option there.

"[He is] a typical No.8, he is physical and tough - we are going to need that physicality on Saturday. Duane has fitted in nicely.

"Although he hasn't played Test rugby, he is a very experienced campaigner, when you compare him to the other guys... he has played a lot of Super Rugby.

"I definitely think he will make a difference on Saturday."

The arrival of Francois Louw from Bath in England is another significant change to the team, although the openside flank will only feature off the bench.

"I have really been impressed with Francois Louw [in the few days he has been with the team, since his arrival on Monday]," Meyer said.

"He has not been with the team for a long time, but he has fitted in nicely. He is also an option in the line-outs, which is a huge positive for us.

"When we did our ball-stealing drills he was superb on the ground.

"He looks in great condition. He had a good off-season ... you can see he is raring to go. He is definitely going to get game time on Saturday and I am excited to see what he can bring to the party."

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