Duane Vermeulen will start at No 8 when the Springboks tackle the Wallabies this Saturday.
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer has brought two new loose forwards into the match 22 following last week’s poor showing against Argentina. Vermeulen will start at No 8 while Francois Louw will be utilised from the bench. Until recently, Vermeulen was playing for Western Province and Louw for English club Bath.
Vermeulen, who has been one of the most consistent performers in the past three seasons of Super Rugby, will finally get his chance at the highest level. The robust Stormer will add some grunt to a loose trio that suddenly looks very intimidating.
‘We’ve decided to put Duane straight into the starting team because he is a classic No 8, a position we’ve lacked in since Pierre Spies got injured and Ryan Kankowski moved to Japan,’ said Meyer.
‘I’ve always admired the way Duane plays rugby and he’s fitted in very well the past week. He would’ve been a Springbok years ago if it had not been for injuries and it’s great to finally see him selected.
‘And by including Francois on the bench, we have a specialist opensider, but also a versatile loose forward that brings a bit more balance to our back row mix.’
While Marcell Coetzee is not an out-and-out openside he will be expected to outplay Australia’s Michael Hooper at the breakdown. The Boks need to produce an improved collective showing in this area after last week’s shocker in Mendoza. Coetzee will need to step up in what should be a brutally physical first half, and Louw will be asked to play a different kind of game in the second when it is not as tight.
Other changes to the pack see Andries Bekker dropped completely and Juandre Kruger introduced as the starting No 5. Bekker played his worst game for the Boks last week, and Kruger should see this as an opportunity to make the position his own.
‘At lock we’ve decided to go for Juandré as he plays more to the ball. Juandré and Eben played well as a combination in the June Tests against England.’
As expected, Meyer has favoured Ruan Pienaar at No 9 and moved Francois Hougaard from scrumhalf to wing. The backline reshuffle sees Lwazi Mvovo moving to the bench.
It’s another change in selection that should become permanent if things go well in Perth. Meyer has said that it’s a ‘horse-for-courses’ pick, but if the Bok pack fires and Pienaar has a blinder, he must be considered as a long-term solution at No 9.
Of course, if Hougaard, playing on wing, gets the ball on the front foot and produces the rugby we know he can, it will serve as further evidence that he is better suited to a back-three role.
Johan Goosen is another new face in the 22, and will earn his first cap if he gets a run in the second half.
Goosen recently recovered from a serious shoulder injury, an injury that prevented him from making his debut in the Test series against England. He represents the future of South African rugby and through his Super Rugby offerings has shown that he’s ready to make the step up.
The pressure is on Morné Steyn, not only to improve on his inconsistent performances of 2012 and guide South Africa to victory, but also to keep Goosen at arm’s length.
Meyer has already admitted that Goosen is the kind of player he wants in that No 10 position. Apart from having all the necessary kicking skills to be a success under today’s modern laws, Goosen also boasts an impressive attacking game. It’s a complete skill set that could eventually allow the Boks to play a more balanced game.
‘In my mind he can become one of the great flyhalves in world rugby. I’ve been very impressed with his work ethic and attitude since he joined the squad on Thursday in Johannesburg and we will keep on managing him carefully over the next few weeks.’
Springboks – 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers (c), 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Francois Louw, 20 Johan Goosen, 21 Pat Lambie, 22 Lwazi Mvovo.