Jon Cardinelli

Meyer laments breakdown lottery

Heyneke Meyer is tired of the inconsistency between northern and southern hemisphere referees, and has called for a standardised approach to officiating at the breakdown, reports JON CARDINELLI in Pretoria.

The Boks beat Scotland 30-17 in Nelspruit last Saturday, but were unable to get clean ball at the breakdown. Scotland were the more determined of the two teams at the collisions and did everything they could to slow and stifle the Boks at the breakdown.

While Meyer conceded that the Boks need to improve in this area, he felt the Scots were allowed too much leeway. The Bok coach said on Monday that it has become difficult to prepare for matches when you don't know what to expect in terms of the match-day referee.

'I don't want to get myself in trouble, but if I was to describe it, I'd use a three-letter word,' Meyer said. 'It's very frustrating.

'I'm not looking to make excuses, but we trained hard at the breakdown in the build-up to that game. We took into account that there is a big difference between southern and northern hemisphere referees, but it has come to the point where you really don't know what to expect.'

The Bok coach reiterated that his team has to improve in this area, before the coming Test against Samoa, and before the all-important Rugby Championship in August.

But Meyer has clearly had enough of the vast difference in refereeing styles, and has called on the powers that be at the International Rugby Board to do something about it. Meyer confirmed that he would be taking the matter up with Saru's manager of referees, Andre Watson.

'It needs to be sorted out,' Meyer said. 'You want to have a good game where you get clean ball, you want to be able to play quality rugby. At this point, even if you are technically astute you still can't get to the ball.

'There needs to be one set of laws and they need to be adhered to.'

Meyer is likely to retain the tight five that started against Scotland and Pierre Spies could start his third consecutive Test at No 8. There could be changes on the flanks, however, with Francois Louw returning from leave and Willem Alberts coming back from injury.

While the breakdowns were a concern in the fixture against Scotland, Meyer has also conceded that the Boks weren't at their best at the collisions. Arno Botha went down with a serious injury in the fifth minute, and the Boks had no like-for-like replacement as Marcell Coetzee shifted from openside to blindside.

The Boks are still without Duane Vermeulen, a favourite of Meyer's due to his gainline efficiency. What will help the Boks' gainline ambitions this week is the return of Alberts, who like Vermeulen was one of the standout ball-carriers in 2012.

The Boks will go into the Rugby Championship with a first choice back-row that includes Louw, Alberts, and Vermeulen (who should be back from injury). While Meyer is concerned that there aren't many alternatives in that No 7 position, he is pleased that the June Test series has allowed him to develop the next tier of loose forwards in Botha (before he got injured), Coetzee and last Saturday's Man of the Match, Siya Kolisi.

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