Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer believes recalled Wallabies utility back Matt Giteau could be a talismanic figure for the Australian side. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Giteau has been in the international wilderness ever since his omission from the 2011 World Cup, but is set to make his long-awaited Wallabies return on Saturday after the Australian Rugby Union relaxed its eligibility rules for overseas-based players.
The 32-year-old has proven to be a highly influential figure for French powerhouse Toulon, and could well start at inside centre against the Springboks in Brisbane.
‘I highly rate Matt Giteau, I think he’s an unbelievable player,’ Meyer commented. ‘He can play at 10 or 12, he’s a great playmaker and he’s won a lot of trophies, especially with Toulon. He’s a quality player and a talisman for them, he gets their backline going. I’m not sure if he will start [for the Wallabies], but he’s the type of guy who can also get their backs going, especially with the experience he has.’
Meyer said he also felt Saturday’s Test against the Wallabies would provide a crucial test of character for outside centre Jesse Kriel.
The 21-year-old produced an encouraging performance in his first appearance for the Springboks against the World XV last weekend, but will face a far sterner examination against the Wallabies.
Outside centre has been a position of concern for some time now, and Kriel will face a significant test on defence against the likes of powerful Fijian-born Wallabies centre Tevita Kuridrani.
‘We’re perhaps a little thin at outside centre now, with Jaque Fourie not 100%,’ Meyer said. ‘Jesse is a quality player but he has to prove himself against the best, and I think Australia have always had one of the best backlines in world rugby. They can be lethal from quality and quick ball.
‘So his defence will be tested along with Damian [de Allende], but it’s up to him to make the position his own, there’s not a lot of time before the World Cup. But he is a quality player, it’s a difficult position to defend, but I really believe he has the potential and now it will be an opportunity to test him in this sort of challenging match.’
Meanwhile, Meyer suggested eighthman could well be Schalk Burger’s best position.
‘Schalk’s changed his whole game since his younger days when he was just an out-and-out openside flanker who was very physical around the breakdown. He’s developed his game and has some really nice touches, and gets the ball away. He’s a really skillful player. I think he can really add value at No 8.
‘It will be tough at the breakdown, Australia always contest well on the ground, and with Schalk there we have another loose forward who can compete in that area. Warren [Whiteley] didn’t do anything wrong, it was always part of the rotation policy to play Schalk there and it’s great to have two great players pushing for this position.’
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