Heyneke Meyer is confident the Springboks’ lineout will function efficiently despite the unavailability or loss of key second row commanders, with Juandre Kruger set to be thrust into the hot seat.
Statistics show that the bulk of tries in Test matches involving the elite teams come from lineouts in or just outside the opposition’s 22m area. This makes lineout success critical to the Springboks’ cause.
With Victor Matfield directing matters during his international career it was a facet of play the Springboks consistently dominated. However, with Matfield’s comeback from retirement blocked by an IRB ruling that stipulates a player must serve a six-month reintroduction period before they can be considered for Test selection, Meyer had hoped Andries Bekker would fill the void.
However, a chronic back injury then ruled Bekker out of contention for the England series, compounding Meyer’s troubles. Kruger looks likely to step up. He trained in the position on Monday afternoon in Durban and Meyer spoke highly of him.
‘Three of our locks haven’t played a Test. But I’m confident in the ability of [forwards coach] Johann van Graan. Juandre has also taken a lot of leadership responsibility at the Bulls. The lineout session today went very well. It’s not the ideal situation but I believe we’ll be fine there.’
Matfield’s influence on Kruger has been evident (Matfield works as a lineout consultant at the Bulls). No team in the competition has stolen more lineout feeds than the Bulls and none have been as accurate on their own feed. Meyer acknowledged the impact of Matfield’s tutelage and said he would place a premium on his views.
‘Victor [evolved lineout play], he was world class. I also think that in time he will be a world class coach. I’ll definitely make use of his insights.’
Meanwhile, Meyer said he had settled on his match 22, explaining that the composition of that squad had come after careful analysis of performances throughout the Super Rugby campaign.
‘I’ve had almost five months to think about the team and the combinations that would best serve us. There are some guys that performed well in the derbies in the last two weeks, but I have to look at the season as a whole. You can’t let emotion influence selections. I’m confident I know who the best 22 is,’ he said.
Asked whether the 30-man squad was picked specifically for the England series or whether he was looking longer term, Meyer said: ‘There’s a balance. The core of players are here for the England series only. But where there was a 50-50 call I went for the youngster who I think in the next year can become great Springboks.
‘They need exposure they need to train with the side and work on our defensive structure and the [attacking] game plan. The six youngsters we’ve brought into the camp [flank Siya Kolisi (Stormers), flank Arno Botha (Bulls), prop Frans Malherbe (Stormers), flank CJ Stander (Bulls), centre Francois Venter (Bulls) and scrumhalf Piet van Zyl (Cheetahs)] have been great and it’s only a matter of time before a couple of them step up. That will probably happen on the year-end tour.’