Meyer’s mavericks come of age

Johan Goosen and Willie le Roux's superb tactical-kicking display against the Bulls bodes well for the Springboks, writes JON CARDINELLI.

Last Friday's game in Bloemfontein will never be forgotten. A determined performance by the Cheetahs in the wet led to a first Vodacom Super Rugby win against the Bulls. For that reason alone, the game will go down in history.

In the context of the 2014 season, the Cheetahs' most recent showing is especially significant. They adapted to the conditions and, against most expectations, it was the least conservative of their players who instigated the slow strangle tactics.

I say 'against most expectations', because some must have already realised that Goosen and Le Roux are more than just brilliant attacking players.

Bok coach Heyneke Meyer has identified Goosen as the long-term answer at No 10, and believes that he has the potential to develop a kicking game to match his ball-in-hand threat. Similarly, Meyer invested in Le Roux in early 2013 with the hope that the gifted player would add more weapons to his arsenal.

Both players made a statement last Friday against the Bulls, one that should reverberate into the Test season.

Goosen's excellent game-management ensured that the Cheetahs played in the right areas, while his goal-kicking was ultimately the difference in a 15-9 win. Le Roux's positional play was outstanding, and whether he was taking a high ball or effecting a clearing kick, he showed that he can be a force in difficult conditions.

The point was made when Le Roux started against Scotland at a soaked Murrayfield last November. Le Roux featured prominently in two of the Boks' tries, although Meyer subsequently declared himself more impressed by the fullback's courage under the high ball and improved kicking game.

Goosen and Le Roux have proved that they can win matches, whether they favour a running or a kicking game. What they need to show in the coming months is consistency.

In the Cheetahs' first match of the season against the Lions, Le Roux didn't show the same composure on defence, and tried to create a linebreak with every attacking touch. In general, the Cheetahs employed the wrong game plan. They lost the game because they played brainless rugby.

It’s a loss they may come to regret later in the competition. However, there is hope if they build on their performance against the Bulls and pick up some valuable wins on their overseas tour.

The Cheetahs have a fantastic opportunity to win in Melbourne this Friday and take some momentum into the following fixtures in Brisbane, Wellington and Auckland. Their success will depend on the decision-making as well as the execution of Goosen and Le Roux.

The spotlight will be on these two players for the next four weeks. It’s important that they succeed in spearheading a balanced approach, not only for the Cheetahs' sake, but for that of the Boks as well.

Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

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