Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has selected Johan Goosen at flyhalf for the Rugby Championship Test against the Wallabies on Saturday.
Keo.co.za reported yesterday that Goosen would start but Meyer surprised by completely omitting Steyn from his 22, selecting the uncapped Elton Janjties as pivot cover.
Asked about his decision to leave Steyn out, Meyer said: ‘This was very difficult, but I looked at what the team needed first and then at the impact on the individual. At Loftus, where he has played well, it is a big call. But he accepted it graciously. I feel it is in his best interest that he doesn’t play. He’ll fight back.’
Meyer said he had contemplated including Steyn’s on the bench but was dissuaded from this course of action because of the potential to expose an already under pressure player. ‘It isn’t going to help him to bring him on with 20 minutes and he ends up having to kick the game-winning or game-losing goal. I either back him 100% or not. That’s the decision I had to take,’ Meyer said.
Meyer also dispelled the perception that Goosen’s natural attacking instinct would be reigned in to come in line with a game plan that is widely perceived as conservative. He explained that a sharp assessment of the state of the defensive line was key in determining what action to take.
‘There’s a misconception that Goosen must fit into a rigid structure. He has the freedom to play the situation as he sees it,’ he said. ‘But this is not Currie Cup rugby where you have space and time. I’ve said to him to go out and express himself, that’s why I picked him. He must determine when it is on to go wide or take the safer option.’
He added: ‘People have to be realistic though, you can’t expect a 20-year-old to win the game on his own.’
Elsewhere Frans Steyn (who’s struggling with an ankle injury) is bracketed with Jaco Taute in the midfield. The Lions youngster will make his debut in the No 13 jersey if Frans Steyn fails to recover, with skipper Jean de Villiers taking over at inside centre.
‘I want two experienced guys on either side of Johan. Jaco was very good at 13 in Super Rugby,’ Meyer said in explaining this move.
The medical staff were highly optimistic about Steyn’s availability on Tuesday evening but he rolled the same ankle in Wednesday’s training session. A call on his availability will be made after the captain’s practice on Friday afternoon.
In other changes Andries Bekker and Eben Etzebeth unseat Juandre Kruger and Flip van der Merwe in the second row. ‘There is great competition at lock now,’ Meyer said. ‘Flip played his best Test ever against the All Blacks and Juandre was very good as well.
‘It was a horses for courses change there. Australia are very good at lineout time and we want to exert pressure on them there. I feel that Eben, Andries and Duane is a good combination to achieve that, as well as a little more mobile which is crucial as Australia will play expansively. Also Andries is a little more experienced and in 50-50 calls like this I always go with the more experienced guy.
Probed on why Taute had leapfrogged Juan de Jongh in the pecking order, Meyer said: ‘Jaco would have been in the squad earlier had he not been injured. He is 106kg and runs the 100m in 10.7. So I looked at the way Australia defend and thought we could exploit that [better with Taute]. I can’t elaborate on that because we’re talking game plan then. It’s a tough call on Juan.’
Coenie Oosthuizen comes onto the bench after a neck injury in the only other change to the bench.
Springboks – 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers, 12 Frans Steyn/Jaco Taute, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermuelen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Coenie Oosthuizen, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Marcel Coetzee, 20 Elton Jantjies, 21 Jaco Taute/Juan de Jongh, 22 Pat Lambie.
By Ryan Vrede, in Johannesburg