Meyer: Morné is my insurance policy
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer said Morné Steyn's selection on the bench ahead of Elton Jantjies is an 'insurance policy'.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said veteran flyhalf Morné Steyn's selection on the bench ahead of Elton Jantjies is an 'insurance policy'.
Young Pat Lambie was named to start at flyhalf - only his second Test start in the No.10 jersey - for South Africa's opening international of their year-end tour, against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.
The 22-year-old Lambie's inclusion at pivot in the place of the injured Johan Goosen, is one of only three changes to the team that started in the Springboks' last Test - against New Zealand in Soweto last month.
The other two are also forced by injury.
JP Pietersen returns at right wing while Juandré Kruger takes over at lock, respectively for Bryan Habana and Andries Bekker, who were both ruled out of the tour because of injury.
However, it was the selection of Steyn - who had been badly out of form this year - ahead of Jantjies on the bench, that raised most eyebrows.
The 22-year-old Jantjies was Goosen's back-up for the home Tests in the Rugby Championship against Australia and New Zealand, when Steyn was axed as a result of his poor performances.
Meyer has repeatedly said that he felt Steyn would regain the match-winning form that saw him set numerous world records in 2009 and 2010 and he has continued to back the 28-year-old flyhalf.
While Meyer was happy to be able to name a settled and well-established set of forward, he admitted the most difficult selections for the encounter with the Irish were flyhalf and centre.
"Morné [Steyn] is almost back to his best," Meyer told a media briefing at the team's base near Dublin, adding: "He is really training well and kicking well."
He dismissed the notion that Jantjies had overtaken Steyn in the Bok pecking order.
"I won't say he [Jantjies] was second [behind John Goosen]," the Bok mentor said, adding: "I don't believe in a pecking order, who is first, second or third - it is more a case of horses for courses.
"At that stage [when he selected Goosen to start and Jantjies on the bench], I said it is no use putting Morné on the bench, because if he is on the bench and there is a difficult kick and he has to come on, suddenly he is under pressure again.
"I wanted to take the pressure off," Meyer said of the flyhalf, who was badly out of form for most of the year.
"He [Steyn] came back with a man of the match [performance] against the Lions and played well.
"With Patrick [Lambie], who has started just one Test at flyhalf [a 7-40 loss to New Zealand in Wellington last year], I didn't want two youngsters [on the matchday 22] again.
"I wanted to avoid what happened when Johan Goosen was injured inside the first 10 minutes [of the 16-32 loss to New Zealand in Soweto]. Elton also had not played much [just two Tests as replacement] and suddenly you [again] have two inexperienced guys.
"I just felt that Morné has 40-odd Tests and has played here [in Ireland] on year-end tours.
"It is my insurance policy, as back-up on the bench. I don't believe in [just] giving chances, but at the right time Elton will play again.
"It is not a question of who is No.1, No.2 and No.3 and change them around.
"I want to look at what Patrick [Lambie] can do. He has had some [Test] experience at No.15 and I have been impressed with his tactical kicking and also believe at this stage his goal-kicking is superb.
"We will need that [his goal-kicking] in a difficult game and difficult conditions. The [Currie Cup] semifinal and Final were played in wet conditions and it is an advantage that they were played in those conditions.
"I feel Patrick is the guy there [for now], but with Morné training well and kicking brilliantly, it is a good insurance policy to have on the bench."
Meyer said that Lambie has the inside track for the No.10 jersey at the moment, but there are no guarantees.
"Given the amount of rugby the guys are playing at the moment, and without putting my foot in it, I think it is going to be difficult for the guys to play at the highest level for four years and be on form every single Test.
"It is great that you have two or three [top-flight] flyhalves and obviously you want to stick with two that knows they are your first-choice selections.
"While he [Lambie] has the inside track for this [November Test] series, he still has to go prove himself at Test level. Even [Johan] Goosen has some obvious class, but he too has a long way to go.
"Everybody spoke about Morné missing kicks, but Johan also missed kicks. Despite being a great kicker at lower [Currie Cup] level, Johan [in his first Test start] missed his first two kicks and Elton also missed two kicks.
"You have to prove it at this level and I feel Patrick deserves a chance. Although he does have the inside track for this Test at No.10, he still has to prove himself.
"I said I was going to use my first year to look at all the players and then start to cement a team.
"I am happy with where we are going with the forwards.
"However, we have had a lot of injuries in the backline and I haven't got a settled backline - that is one of the reasons why I didn't want to make too many changes to the backline."