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How Flouw gamble paid off for Boks

Fri, 02 Nov 2012 06:48
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I was tentative to use overseas players
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Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer admitted the call-up of two European-based forwards is the result of the success of an earlier 'experiment'.

French-based prop Gurthrö Steenkamp (Toulouse) and hooker Schalk Brits (Saracens, England) have joined Francois Louw (Bath, England) and Ruan Pienaar (Ulster, Northern Ireland) to bring up to four the number of overseas-based players in the national team.

Steenkamp played the last of his 38 Tests when he featured against Australia in the World Cup quarterfinal last year, while Brits made just three Test appearances, all in 2008.

Meyer, speaking ahead of his team's departure for their three-Test year-end tour, admitted he was initially not sold on the idea of selecting players plying their trade abroad.

However, Bath loose forward Francois Louw quickly changed that.

"In the beginning I was tentative to use overseas players, but I saw what a huge influence Francois Louw had on the team," Meyer said of the starring role Louw played in the Rugby Championship - after being called up to the squad, following a number of loose forward injuries to frontline personnel.

"I never worked with Francois [Louw] before and you only get a sense of the player once you have worked with him and you saw what he can bring to the table - he is one of the best openside flanks in the world now.

"He played really well in both games against Richie McCaw."

Meyer said he hopes that Steenkamp and Brits fit into the Bok set-up just as seamlessly as Louw did.

"If you introduce those [overseas] players to the [team] culture and the [current] set-up they are just so much more positive," the Bok mentor said, adding: "We have a great culture and a vibe going in the team.

"Those [overseas] players, I just want to give them an opportunity to fit into the culture and see what we are all about.

"I have worked with Gurthrö [Steenkamp] before, so I know what he can do when he is fit.

"I haven't work with Schalk [Brits] before and he is a great impact player. He is very experienced now, 31, when he left South Africa he was a youngster.

"I want to see how those guys fit into the team and want them to play long-term for the team."

Meyer said the addition of Steenkamp and Brits adds the kind of experience the Boks will need in the tough conditions in Ireland, Scotland and England - whom they meet on three consecutive weekends from November 10.

"It brings more experience - especially in the front row where we have struggled with injuries.

"Beast [Tendai Mtawarira] and Jannie [du Plessis] have played almost every game and we have been fortunate there [at prop], but Coenie [Oosthuizen] and Pat [Cilliers] have been [injured] in and out of the team.

"I believe, especially in Europe, you need big scrummagers.

"Even in the Rugby Championship the scrums were important.

"In Europe every single scrum is a battle and they scrum for penalties. So, if you don't have a great, big scrum going forward you will struggle.

"We are also fortunate to have a full front row on the bench with the new rules for the end-of-year tour, so it gives me a great opportunity to look at those guys and introduce them to the team and see what they can offer."

Meyer said the only problem with their selection is that all four overseas-based players are still playing this weekend and will only join the Boks on Monday.

"We can only start working with them on Tuesday, so it will be tough to work on line-outs and those things.

"However, it will add to our depth.

"We won't throw them in at the deep end in the first Test, but we will slowly introduce them into the squad,"he said of Steenkamp and Brits.

By Jan de Koning

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