MARK KEOHANE, writing in Business Day newspaper, says a weak Wallabies side could take a hiding at Loftus.
Heyneke Meyer has picked a team good enough to win against Australia at Loftus. Australia, even more depleted through injury than SA, could cop a big one.
It has happened before at Loftus. In 1997 the Wallabies, disillusioned with coach Greg Smith and battered by New Zealand a week before, fell apart in the last 30 minutes as the Boks romped to a record-breaking 61-22 victory. It was the first of 17 successive Bok wins.
It has also happened at Super Rugby level, with the Reds taking 90 points against the Bulls a few years back and this season conceding 60 in Pretoria. If it goes slightly wrong for overseas teams at altitude and the hosts get on a roll, it can get very messy.
Given that Meyer has not selected any Japan- or France-based South African players, there isn’t a whole lot more he could have done with his run-on XV and match 22 selections.
I believe Pat Lambie is deserving of a start but Meyer has refused to entrust him with the No 15 jersey. Meyer has also been reluctant to introduce Gio Aplon, despite the player’s more than capable performance in the 14-14 draw in the third and final Test against England earlier in the Test season.
Zane Kirchner is once again the go-to man and once again there are those who claim Meyer has a Bulls bias. That is absolute trash and Meyer cannot be accused of giving Bulls players preferential treatment. It is his right as coach to rate one player ahead of another.
He also remains committed to flyhalf Morné Steyn, but that is not a Bulls thing but a mentoring issue, in that Meyer pretty much shaped Steyn’s provincial and Super Rugby career, believes in the ability of the player and has backed him without fail. The coach was clear to emphasise that the support remains steadfast, even in omitting Steyn from Saturday’s Test. The player had not been dropped but given a breather, said Meyer.
However you look at it, for now it is the right choice. We know the value of Steyn, but his primary strength has always been his goal and line kicking, and that has failed him in the last seven Tests as never before in his international career.
At the start of the Test year, Steyn had a career Bok goal-kicking average of 84%. In the last seven Tests he has averaged 54%. Something is amiss that a player of this goal-kicking quality is 30% down. He has missed match-winning goal kicks in Port Elizabeth and Mendoza and missed a crucial kick in Perth. They were kicks Steyn usually nails and if he isn’t kicking at anything in excess of 70% then he shouldn’t be in the starting XV.
It is not to say that he can’t return or that he won’t return, but selecting Johan Goosen for his first start was an obvious and progressive selection. Goosen will do well. The two great flyhalves of the last decade, Jonny Wilkinson and Dan Carter, were both playing Test rugby at 20. Goosen’s raw potential in his all-round game is comparable with Wilkinson and Carter at a similar age and he certainly looked comfortable in his two performances against Australia and the All Blacks.
I am pleased Jaco Taute is finally fit and in the mix. There has been criticism that Stormers centre Juan de Jongh has been leapfrogged but Taute (for me) offers more. He can play at 13 and 15 but I like the prospect of him in a No 13 jersey.
Meyer, into his eighth Test, has blooded several new players and introduced a post-2007 World Cup generation of player. A lot of it has been forced on him due to injury and the unavailability of experienced players but there can only be benefits to the youngsters experiencing Test rugby now. It builds international depth. Meyer knows what he has with the older hands and a youthful injection has never disadvantaged any team.
I’d like to see Meyer look at some of the France-based club players on the end-of-year tour and give some of the local players a decent off-season.
Andries Bekker gets another chance to convince Meyer he is worth the investment, and hopefully there is more X factor to Ruan Pienaar’s contribution. Pienaar has been decent at scrumhalf, but the expectation has to be more than a decent return from such an accomplished player.
I don’t expect much from the Aussies. They really have been hurt by injuries and the match 22 is among the weakest to tour SA in the last 10 years.
They’ll play an expansive game and the reward may be a couple of early scores, but this is one that the Boks will win — and win well.