Flip part of bigger Bok picture
Flip part of bigger Bok pictureSHARE
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer says building depth in key positions was the reason behind Flip van der Merwe’s promotion to the starting line-up.
Meyer on Wednesday surprisingly named Van der Merwe at No.5 in place of Juandré Kruger for the Final of the four-nation tournament against Samoa at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.
The Springbok coach said rather than form, the decision was based on building towards the future and strengthening South Africa’s depth.
Finding a long-term successor for Victor Matfield has been problematic for Meyer. After failing in his bid to lure the Bulls great out of retirement last year, Meyer identified Andries Bekker and Kruger as the leading candidates to take over the line-out manager role.
However, with both men overseas-bound – Bekker set to jet off to Japan and Kruger to France after the Super Rugby season – and Bekker struggling with recurring lower back problems, Meyer drafted Sharks youngster Pieter-Steph du Toit into his squad this year.
The former IRB Junior World Championship-winning South African Under-20 lock has been impressive in his debut season of Super Rugby but an injury ruled him out of the Springboks’ incoming tour.
Eben Etzebeth showed promise when he shifted to No.5 for the Stormers earlier this season, but Meyer has opted for the more experienced Van der Merwe to call the line-outs on Saturday.
"I thought Juandré probably played one of his best Test matches the past Saturday, it is to see if Eben Etzebeth and Flip can play together," Meyer explained.
"At this stage we are very thin on number five locks and I don't want to go into the [Rugby] Championship not having tested that [combination]."
Van der Merwe, better known as a No.4 lock, said there was not much difference between the two positions and he would be able to make the transition.
Meyer also made two changes to the back row, where Francois Louw starts at No.6 after missing the weekend's Test for his wedding and Willem Alberts returns from injury pending a late fitness test.
The breakdown areas had been a talking point this week after the match against Scotland and it was hoped that Louw's inclusion as a specialist openside flank would help remedy this area of play.
Meyer, however, said the inclusion of Louw and Alberts was not a reflection of what he thought of Marcell Coetzee and Man of the Match Siya Kolisi's performances against Scotland.
"Francois Louw better understands how the Northern Hemisphere referees officiate the breakdowns and he is a recognised openside flank," Meyer said.
"Francois and Willem were the loose forwards on the year-end tour with Duane Vermeulen and they really did well."
The Springbok mentor said the fact that he could bring back players like Louw and Alberts into the team demonstrated that he was building depth in his squad.
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