Wynand Olivier says he will use a start against England to convince everybody including himself that he belongs at the highest level.
Olivier is set to replace Frans Steyn at No 12 this Saturday, as Steyn has plans to get married and has been granted a release from the squad.
Saturday will mark Olivier’s first start for the Springboks since 23 July 2011 when he played for a dirt-tracker South African side on a winless Australasian tour.
The last time Olivier started for a full-strength Bok team was back in the 2010 Tri-Nations. Then coach Peter de Villiers was swayed by senior Bok players to give Olivier a final chance, and unfortunately it was a chance Olivier didn’t use to alter the perception that he wasn’t Test quality.
De Villiers then dropped Olivier completely, only recalling him in 2011 when the majority of the first-choice players were not available. Once again, Olivier blew this opportunity to impress, and was not picked for the World Cup squad.
His most recent recall to the national side has come as a shock, although Meyer has responded to criticism by pointing to Olivier’s experience. Nevertheless, there is a sense that there will be no more chances following this Saturday’s Test, and nobody is more aware of the fact than Olivier himself.
‘I don’t want to say I’m going out there to prove a point, it’s more about proving to myself that I can make the step up to international rugby,’ he said.
Olivier has played off the bench in the last two matches, and it’s been clear that England prefer to attack the Boks’ 10-12 channel when he is on the park.
Defence coach John McFarland confirmed that Olivier made more tackles than any other Bok back in the second Test, and what this stat indicates is that the England attack have targeted his channel as a potential weak point.
Olivier feels that he can cope with the hard-running England backs this Saturday and that he will also offer the Boks some strong options on attack.
‘Manu Tuilagi is a big guy and I’m looking forward to the challenge of stopping him,’ he said. ‘I am enjoying playing alongside Jean [de Villiers]. We haven’t played [as a midfield combination] since 2006 and 2007. He’s a guy with a lot of experience and I believe he will also bring something else to my game.’
Olivier believes he can succeed where he has failed before, that he can show his coach and team-mates that he is more than just a solid Super Rugby player. While there is pressure to perform in this situation, Olivier said that he won’t let it affect his confidence.
‘I’ve been out of the team for a while now, but it feels different now compared to when I was involved with Jake White’s team and then Peter’s, I was young back then. I’m more experienced now and more relaxed and focused on what I need to do.’
By Jon Cardinelli, in Port Elizabeth