Second Phase

Tweaks that can make Boks winners

Wed, 19 Sep 2012 10:47
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Jan de Koning reveals what changes he will make to the Bok starting XV
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Don't expect wholesale changes, but a few 'tweaks' could help Heyneke Meyer turn the Springboks an 'almost' team into real winners.

Meyer will name a 30-man squad - for the final two Tests in Rugby Championship, against Australia in Pretoria (September 29) and New Zealand in Soweto a week later - at the conclusion of Round Seven of the Currie Cup.

While Meyer's 42.9 percent success rate (three wins, two draws and two defeats) may not make for pretty reading, a proper analysis reveals that the Boks are a lot closer to world No.1 New Zealand than most of his critics would be willing to acknowledge.

Yes, those performances in Mendoza (a 16-all draw with Argentina), Perth (a 19-26 loss to the Wallabies) and Dunedin (an 11-21 defeat against the All Blacks) showed up some flaws in the Bok make-up.

But those should be put down to a lack of form by certain individuals, rather being using as a whip to keep flogging Meyer about his game-plan ... or supposed lack thereof.

It is a fact the some of the team's game-breakers and match-winners have not displayed their best form this year.

The main problem has been at halfback - where Morné Steyn has been a pale shadow of his 2009 and 2010 record-breaking form.

While it is admirable of Meyer to protect players - and all coaches do - he has also acknowledged that Steyn could do with a 'mental' break.

Most critics glossed over the surface of Meyer's comments when he discussed the flyhalf's lack of form. There is more to it than meets the eye.

"I do not want to knock individuals, but the missed kicks were crucial," the coach told a media scrum in Johannesburg this week, following Steyn's 22 percent (2 from nine goal-kicks) in the 11-21 loss last Saturday.

"Morné is mentally tough, though, and look at what happened to Bryan Habana.

"Bryan is now playing phenomenal rugby again.

"The mental break will do Morné good and we will look at the situation after the Currie Cup matches this weekend and decide who will play against Australia in Pretoria."

Maybe a short holiday away from the playing field will do the trick?

Scrumhalf is another major issue.

Francois Hougaard is an undoubted match-winner.

However, is he a scrumhalf or a wing? The decision to keep shuffling him between positions can't be good for his confidence.

Just ask Ruan Pienaar, who has played at scrumhalf the last few weeks, while Hougaard was on the wing. Pienaar lost all shape when he was used as a 'utility' for the Boks under previous coaches It was only at Ulster, when he played almost exclusively scrumhalf, that he started regaining his best form. Unfortunately he hasn't transferred that from Europe to the Test area.

The other place where a 'tweak' could make a difference is at fullback.

Zane Kirchner had one of his better games against the All Blacks, but there is room for the skill of Pat Lambie. He may not get the same distances as Kirchner with his clearance kicks, but Lambie is no slouch.

What he will bring is some variation and that occasional 'moment of brilliance' that all coaches look for.

Against Australia at Loftus Versfeld next week it may be worth taking the risk and gamble of a couple of changes.

Meyer said he wanted to instill a belief in the team that they can beat any side in the world and there is no reason to doubt him when he said: I think we have achieved that goal.”

All it will take is a few 'tweaks' to the team selection!

Jan de Koning's starting XV: 15 Pat Lambie, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Frans Steyn, 11 François Hougaard, 10 Johann Goosen, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 François Louw, 5 Juandré Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Andries Bekker, 19 Marcell Coetzee, 20 Elton Jantjies, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Willie le Roux.

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