Injury leaves Boks thin in midfield

Heyneke Meyer wants Frans Steyn and Jaque Fourie to return to Test rugby, even more so now that Jean de Villiers is in doubt for the 2015 World Cup, reports JON CARDINELLI in Cardiff.

It’s been a devastating week for the Boks. On Thursday, star centre Jaque Fourie announced that he has committed to playing exclusively for his Japanese club and will not be available to the Boks in 2015. And then on Saturday at the Millennium Stadium, Bok skipper Jean de Villiers went down with a serious, potentially career-ending, injury.

Earlier this year, Frans Steyn left the Boks over a contractual dispute with Saru. Steyn, who has won the World Cup, a Tri-Nations title, and a series against the British & Irish Lions, has not played for the Boks since.

There’s been some uncertainty regarding Steyn’s participation at the 2015 tournament. However, given recent events, the Boks could certainly use his skill and experience. At this stage, it seems unlikely De Villiers will be fit in time for next year’s global showpiece in England.

In that event, Meyer would dearly love to have the likes of Steyn and Fourie to fall back on. This was, of course, the midfield that started in the 2007 World Cup final.

On Sunday, Meyer admitted that the announcement regarding Fourie’s availability had caught the Bok management by surprise. That along with De Villiers’s knee injury has placed the Boks in a difficult position.

‘I wasn’t aware of anything before the announcement,’ the Bok coach said of Fourie’s decision. ‘I had a conversation with him recently and at that stage, I thought he was still available.

‘With Jaque retiring from international rugby, and with Jean out, suddenly there isn’t a lot of experience in the midfield. And then Frans is also unavailable.’

Meyer said he would be contacting Fourie and Steyn in the near future, asking if they would reconsider their decision to retire from international rugby. He has always rated both players very highly, and in 2012 told that Steyn in particular had plenty more to give at Test level.

‘I will probably have a talk with him, but in the end it’s up to him. He ruled himself out. It’s not about me. It’s not about egos. We have to go out there and win a World Cup.

‘I will do whatever it takes, even if I have to speak to Jaque Fourie too, to make that [win] happen. Of course, those guys must prove they want to play for South Africa and that they are better than the rest.’

Meyer does have other options. Earlier this year, he started Jan Serfontein and JP Pietersen in the midfield against Wales and Scotland. The experiment yielded positive results.

‘I thought JP and Jan did well as a combination. But you need backup. There’s a lot of rugby to be played between now and the World Cup, and even at that tournament you could potentially play seven games and sustain injuries at some point of the campaign.

‘People always say don’t pick old guys and don’t pick players based overseas, but one thing that has become clear is that you need experienced players, especially when you are playing away from home. And in this part of the world, it’s a totally different type of game. I’m worried about the centre position, and we are still a little thin at No 5 lock too.’

Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

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