Heyneke canes Kirchner critics
Heyneke canes Kirchner criticsSHARE
Leinster-based fullback Zane Kirchner is often seen as a dour, conservative player with limited attacking skills. 'Not true', according to Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
Kirchner, who is back to full fitness following a hand injury, will start his first Test of the year at fullback when South Africa take on Australia in a crucial Rugby Championship Round Three match in Brisbane on Saturday.
The Kirchner knockers will be quick to tell you that means the Boks will employ a kick-'n-chase game against a Wallaby side seemingly intent on running the visitors ragged.
The Bok mentor, Meyer, wasted no time to tell these carpers a few home truths.
"There is a perception with Zane that he is only a kicking fullback," the coach told a media briefing in Brisbane, ahead of Saturday's showdown.
"If you look at all the teams he has played for, even in Super Rugby, they often scored close to the most tries."
Although the 29-year-old fullback has scored just three tries in his 24 Tests, Meyer is adamant Kirchner is a force on attack at Test level.
"Last year we scored 22 tries, while the Wallabies scored [just] 13 tries. Zane was the fullback," Meyer said of the 2012 campaign.
"At Loftus [Versfeld] we scored five tries," Meyer said of a 31-8 win over the Wallabies.
"He [Kirchner] scored one and was unlucky not to get a second – it was a 50-50 decision," the coach said.
The statistics from the game seem to back Meyer's claims – with four of the five tries going to outside backs, Kirchner and wing Bryan Habana (a hat-trick) getting those, while flank Francois Louw got the fifth.
Kirchner not only scored a try, but in that game he kicked just twice, passed the ball twice and ran six times. He also made one clean break and beat another defender.
However, Meyer didn't stop there.
"If you look at the Super Rugby stats he has always been up there in the past with the guys who score the most tries.
"I feel he is a very clinical fullback – he can attack if there is an opportunity and he is a very good defender under the high ball."
Meyer suggested that critics sometimes tend to read too much into certain situations in the game.
"With the same backline the one week we scored nine tries against Argentina [a 73-13 win in Soweto] and the next week we scored one [a 22-17 win in Mendoza]," the coach said of their results in the opening rounds of the Rugby Championship.
"Sometimes it works for you – it just depends on the day.
"It was the same when Pat [Lambie] played fullback, they said we would score a lot of tries and we didn't.
"I feel Zane is a quality player who doesn't get the credit [he deserves] and he has always done well for us."