Kirchner’s days numbered

Heyneke Meyer has indicated that Jaco Taute’s Springbok future lies at fullback, casting doubt over Zane Kirchner’s Test longevity.

Kirchner has been a consistent target of criticism for his perceived attacking limitations, but Meyer has retained faith in the fullback, regularly defending his selection.

However, Meyer, speaking in Cape Town ahead of their year-end tour, revealed that Taute, who was deployed at outside centre after Frans Steyn was ruled out of the Rugby Championship through injury, is his long term preference. Taute, who recently confirmed a loan move from the Lions to the Stormers where he is likely to be the first-choice No 15 in 2013, has also stressed that he feels he is best suited to fullback.

Taute ticks all the boxes in the position: he is defensively sound, has a strong kicking game, good positional sense, is secure under high kicks, is sharp in his reading of the defensive alignment when fielding kicks deep in his half (i.e successfully deciding when to counter-attack and when to punt for field position), runs good angles and has good timing when joining the line on attack and has the speed and physicality to break tackles. At 21, he is also a player Meyer can invest in with confidence of a significant return.

‘I believe Taute’s best position is 15 and I would have liked to see him at 15 in these [November] Tests. He can offer us something different there,’ Meyer told keo.co.za. ‘But now with us being thin on midfield cover he may have to continue to play at 13. That said, I see his future at 15 and I’ve communicated that to him.’

The other hot debate is which one of Morne Steyn or Pat Lambie should start at flyhalf for the tour. Steyn was dropped for the home leg of the Rugby Championship following a number of poor performances. However, with Johan Goosen injured and Elton Jantjies still deemed too raw to start in the northern hemisphere, it is a choice between Steyn and Lambie.

Meyer and his coaching team have constantly hinted that Steyn is their man in light of the conditions they are expected to encounter, but the coach has warmed to Lambie as an option following a string of strong performances in the position for the Sharks.

‘I don’t believe you should try too many things at Test level, that is for Super Rugby. But I’ve also said I wanted to use the tour to see one or two different combinations. I’ve always been honest with Patrick and said that if he wants to be a Test 10 he has to improve his tactical kicking game and he has definitely worked hard on it,’ Meyer said.

‘You need a tactical 10 in Test rugby. Dan Carter, for example, was excellent in turning us in Soweto and that’s the type of kicking game we’ll need. Pat has the potential to be a great flyhalf. After this year I want to stick with two flyhalves that I’ll take through to the World Cup.’

With injuries forcing his hand Meyer has selected a number of young players during his tenure thus far. Raymond Rhule was a surprise inclusion in the squad, but had shown great promise throughout the Currie Cup. With a host of more experienced wingers ahead of him, he isn’t expected to play. Meyer virtually confirmed this, but explained that he had seen too many players who had excelled in the Currie Cup rushed into Test rugby never to play again, and didn’t want to repeat those errors.

He intimated that young Rhule was selected to familiarise himself with the team ethos and game plan, with a view to gradually introducing him to Test rugby.

‘Look at my career. I’ve never thrown a young player to the wolves,’ he said. ‘Raymond Rhule is an exciting talent but I need time to establish how prepared he is for Test rugby, particularly as far as his mental toughness is concerned. He needs to train with the squad and be educated on the game plan. He is a player with huge talent and I think he can be there at the next World Cup. But it is important to manage young players properly.

‘There are a lot of youngsters in the squad and I’m excited to see how they respond to the challenge of touring. The biggest thing about the tour is that the World Cup will be in England in 2015 and will be played in the conditions we’ll experience there now. I’ll have a clearer idea of who has the mental and technical abilities I’m looking for after this tour.’

By Ryan Vrede, in Cape Town