Heyneke Meyer is adamant that Zane Kirchner will provide the Springboks with some strong attacking options in the looming battle with the Wallabies, reports JON CARDINELLI in Brisbane.
Meyer has confirmed that Kirchner will start against the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium this Saturday. The selection has come as a surprise to many given Kirchner has not played a Test since last November. Indeed, Kirchner has played very little rugby over the past few months due to his struggle with a hand injury.
Nevertheless, Meyer has seen fit to reinstate a player who was his go-to man for much of the 2012 season.
The move to start Kirchner against the Wallabies was first revealed at Tuesday's training session in Brisbane. At the team announcement on Wednesday, Meyer explained his decision to bring Kirchner in from the cold, and shift Willie le Roux to the wing.
Le Roux has started all five Tests at fullback this season, and has certainly brought more energy and purpose to the position. Where Le Roux has underachieved is in the tactical-kicking department and under the high ball, and it is for this reason why the versatile Pat Lambie was expected to start against the Wallabies.
Kirchner was not part of the Bok squad for the first two Tests of the Castle Rugby Championship. It was thought that Meyer was moving in a new direction with Le Roux, and even with Lambie who offers strong attacking and kicking options in the No 15 position.
It's for this reason why so many people have baulked at the suggestion that Kirchner could start. Some have even described it as a backward step.
On Wednesday, Meyer argued that the selection of Kirchner is not as conservative as some may think.
'He's a quality player, and the perception that he is conservative or that my selection of him conservative is not accurate,' the Bok coach said.
'You go back and look at what he's done for the Bulls in Super Rugby. He's been there and there abouts in terms of the top try-scorers season after season. He started at fullback for the Boks last year, and he was at fullback when we scored five tries against the Wallabies at Loftus Versfeld in what was a fine attacking performance.
'Bjorn Basson is carrying a bit of a wrist injury, and it was an easy decision to make in swapping him for Willie, as Willie is a similar attacking player. Willie will still have licence to roam from that wing position.
'I'm confident that we have the right back-three combination for this game against the Wallabies. I'm also confident that players like Zane can offer us a lot on attack.'
While the Boks will go into this match with a specific game plan, Meyer said that his charges have been encouraged to make decisions according to the game situation.
Meyer's selections suggest that the Boks will keep it close and play for territory. When this was put to the Bok coach, however, he explained that Test rugby is never that simple.
'The Wallabies have picked a strong backline; one of the most dangerous combinations we've played all year. They've picked a strong back-three combination. Israel Folau is a brilliant counter-attacking player, and a player like Nick Cummins is very underrated in terms of physicality.
'We have to be prepared for anything this Saturday. We have to read the situation. If their fullback and wings are up, then we must kick for the space behind them. If they are back, we must look to see if there is a chance to run it. These are the decisions the players need to make on the day.
'We know what kind of game the Wallabies will look to play. They know that we've travelled a lot recently [from Argentina to South Africa and then to Australia in the space of a week], and they will try to move us around the park. We have to be ready for anything.
'It's a mistake we made in the match against Scotland in June,' Meyer continued, referring to the Boks' underwhelming performance at the Mbombela Stadium. 'We thought they would keep it close, but they ended up running at us from everywhere. The Wallabies have a great backline and they'd be crazy not to use it, but we must be ready for a tough battle up front as well.'
Photo: Patrick Bolger/Getty Images
SA Rugby mag’s Test Team of the Year
JON CARDINELLI picks the best 23 players of the 2013 Test season.
Du Preez’s attracting attention
Former Kings flank Cornell du Preez has been in good form for Edinburgh and could go on to play Test rugby for Scotland. GAVIN MORTIMER reports.
How Mandela saved the Springbok
Once synonymous with oppression and apartheid, the actions of former president Nelson Mandela gave the Springbok emblem new meaning to all South Africans, wrote MARK KEOHANE in a 100-year anniversary article in 2006.