Pivotal shoot-out on Bok tour
Pivotal shoot-out on Bok tourSHARE
Three players will be in a straight 'shoot-out' to fill one remaining flyhalf spot in the Springbok squad from next year onwards.
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer revealed that as from 2013 he will stick with just two No.10s and those will be the guys who he feels can play in the World Cup in 2015.
While injuries have severely curtailed his career the past year, and can continue to limit his appearances for the Boks, Meyer has been outspoken in his admiration for the undoubted talents of four-Test rookie Johan Goosen.
Given the manner in which the Bok mentor eased the 20-year-old Free State Cheetahs pivot into the international arena this year and Meyer's high estimation of his talents, it is a given that Goosen is one of the preferred choices for the 2015 World Cup in England.
That leaves the trio of Pat Lambie, Morné Steyn and Elton Jantjies to do battle for the other spot – a fact Meyer highlighted when he addressed the media in Cape Town, where the Boks started preparations for their tour of Ireland, Scotland and England.
"Obviously you want to win every Test and you shouldn't try too many things at international level," Meyer told the media briefing.
"However, I also want to use this tour to look at one or two possibilities."
Those possibilities clearly include putting the three flyhalves on 'trial'.
Bok veteran Morné Steyn, capped 41 times for his country and the holder of several world records, has suffered a severe slump in form this year. So much so that he was dropped from the Bok team in the Rugby Championship.
However, having been recalled for the year-end tour and a proven match-winner, Meyer is clearly going to give him one more shot at proving his detractors wrong.
Patrick Lambie has been used mainly as fullback back-up by Meyer, but the Bok mentor made it clear he will be given a run at No.10 on tour and is likely to start in one of the three Tests.
Elton Jantjies, who played off the bench behind Goosen in his two Test appearances this year, appears some way down the pecking order, but he too will get a chance at showing that he should be one of two frontline pivots in Meyer's squad going forward.
However, given Meyer's earlier statement that Lambie is seen mainly as a fullback at Test level, the Sharks player has most to gain from the 'pivotal trial' on tour.
"I have always been open with Patrick [Lambie] and said to him, if he wants to be a No.10, especially with the World Cup being in England, he has to be able to kick tactically more and better," Meyer told the media briefing hen quizzed about Lambie position in the national team.
"Look at the Currie Cup Final, I know it is at a lower level. However, [even there] it is the team that defends best and have a tactical flyhalf that usually wins."
Meyer again pointed to the Boks' kicking shortcoming at international level this year as a reason for having astute tactical flyhalves.
"The strange thing is, if you look at our last Test against New Zealand – we were criticised, but they [the All Blacks] kicked 13 kicks more than us.
"I thought [Dan] Carter was superb in that second half, he kept turning us [around] and we couldn't get out of our own half.
"You do need a tactical No.10."
Meyer said he was impressed with Lambie's progress, but made it clear this tour will be decisive in terms of Test flyhalves.
"I have been open with Patrick and told him if he wants to be at flyhalf he needs to work on his tactical kicking.
"It [Lambie's tactical kicking] has improved and he has worked hard, you can see he has worked hard.
"He is definitely a contender there and I think he can be a great No.10 going forward.
"However, in saying that, after this year I want to stick with [just] two No.10s and those will be the guys who can play in the World Cup [in 2015]."
Flyhalf is not the only position where a couple of players will be on trial.
Incumbent fullback Zane Kirchner can expect stiff competition from Lions rookie Jaco Taute.
Meyer revealed that even though Taute is expected to feature at centre on tour, given the midfield injuries he is faced with, Taute is regarded as a fullback.
"I believe his best position is at No.15," Meyer said when asked about Taute's position.
"Without giving too much away, this Test match [against Ireland next Saturday] I would like to see him at No.15, because I believe he can offer something different there.
"However, now with Bryan [Habana] injured and Frans Steyn out, there suddenly are not a lot of No.13s around.
"I would like to give him chance at fullback, but we are as little bit thin at centre. I thought JP [Pietersen] could double up there [midfield], but now Bryan is out as well. We have to shuffle it around, but I think he [Taute] can be a brilliant No.15.
"I see him in the future as a fullback and I have communicated that to him."
Captain Jean de Villiers is currently the only fit inside centre in the squad, but Meyer said he does have other options should the skipper get injured on tour.
"I like guys to settle in a position.," Meyer said, adding: "In the World Cup it helps if they can play more than one position. Jaco Taute can play at No.12 and Juan de Jongh can play at inside centre.
"We only have three [specialist] centres in the group, even though JP [Pietersen] can slot in there as well."
By Jan de Koning