No sense in complete Bok overhaul
Mon, 23 Jun 2014 14:50
The best chance new players have to shine is within a settled environment
The Springbok team to face Scotland in Port Elizabeth will be markedly different from the one that edged Wales in Nelspruit, by necessity rather than design.
With seven European-based players unavailable for selection and at least another two starters ruled through injury Heyneke Meyer's hand will be forced when he names his team to face an under-strength Scotland.
However, the idea that Meyer should completely overhaul the team and give promising youngsters a shot because the match falls outside the June Test window and Scotland will not have their best team on the park is a little bit misguided.
First of all anyone who has paid remote attention to Meyer's selection policy will know that he does not believe that Test rugby is the place for experimentation or giving players chances. The relative strength of the Scottish team is not particularly relevant here as it remains a Test match and the Boks' last match together ahead of the Rugby Championship.
The best chance new players have to shine is within a settled environment where they are surrounded by experience. The third British and Irish Lions Test in 2009 provides a good example of how badly things can go if continuity is tampered with too much and Meyer will certainly not be willing to surrender any momentum as he prepares for the challenge that New Zealand, Australia and Argentina will pose in August.
Yes there will be major changes to the team this week, but it would be very surprising if there were more than is absolutely necessary given the players available.
There will have to be two changes to the tight five with Tendai Mtawarira and Flip van der Merwe sidelined through injury, whilst in the loose trio there are doubts over the fitness of Willem Alberts and Francois Louw will be back with Bath.
Gurthro Steenkamp was Mtawarira's back-up on Saturday but he will be back with Toulouse which means that either Coenie Oosthuizen or Trevor Nyakane could be given a shot at loosehead prop. The opening at lock could well see Lodewyk de Jager get his first Test start alongside Victor Matfield who is now the most experienced Bok ever after surpassing John Smit last week.
If Alberts is not fit then it could open the door for Teboho Mohoje to make his debut, although he is more likely to start on the bench with Schalk Burger perhaps given the No.7 jersey he last wore at the 2011 World Cup. The absence of Louw means that Sharks flank Marcell Coetzee should get a crack at openside flank after spending the last two years watching Louw from the sidelines.
In the backline the biggest question mark revolves around flyhalf and whether Meyer will throw IRB World Junior Player of the year Handre Pollard in the deep end with Morne Steyn back in Paris. Johan Goosen and Marnitz Boshoff are expected to be fit again, so it seems more likely that Pollard would join the fray in the second half if he indeed does get his chance.
Those wanting to see some different options in Springbok colours this weekend will certainly get their wish, but those expecting a completely new side are likely to be left a little disappointed when the team is announced on Wednesday.
By Michael de Vries
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