Damian de Allende and Jean de Villiers will start in the midfield when the Springboks face Samoa on Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Birmingham.
Later on Wednesday, Meyer is expected to make as many as seven personnel changes to the South African starting side. The Boks will also revert to a more pragmatic game plan this coming Saturday, a game plan that was – as it has recently emerged – supposed to be implemented against Japan.
Publicly, the Bok players and coaches have denied claims that they underestimated Japan in the lead-up to the match in Brighton. They’ve worked to assure the media that the coaches and players are on the same page regarding the game plan.
Privately, harsh words have been spoken in the team room and over the course of extensive video reviews. Ultimatums have been delivered. The players have a choice: get on board with Meyer’s strategy, or watch the remainder of the tournament from the stands.
It’s believed that Meyer never intended for the Boks to play expansively in that match against Japan. Those decisions were made by the players on the field. The arrogance of the Bok leadership group allowed Japan to remain in the contest and eventually complete a stunning 34-32 win.
Of course, the buck stops with the coach who selected those players. To his credit, Meyer admitted as much after the game, and took full responsibility for the loss.
Over the past few days, the players and the coaches have done a lot of soul-searching. Word from the camp is that Meyer is willing to give the senior players a second chance providing they follow his instructions from hereon in.
Meyer will continue to back De Villiers, at least for the next game against Samoa. De Allende will come in at No 12, while De Villiers’s shift to No 13 will see Jesse Kriel dropping out of the starting team.
Judging by the way the Boks lined up at a training session at the University of Birmingham on Tuesday, Meyer is set to make further changes to his starting backline. Fourie du Preez and Handré Pollard will start at scrumhalf and flyhalf respectively. JP Pietersen will replace Lwazi Mvovo on the wing, and Willie le Roux should displace Zane Kirchner at fullback.
Lood de Jager, South Africa’s best player in the defeat to Japan, will drop to the bench. First-choice No 4 Eben Etzebeth has fully recovered from his calf injury, and will partner Victor Matfield in the second row.
As reported on Sunday, Duane Vermeulen is fit and available for selection. He trained at No 8 on Tuesday. Schalk Burger ran at blindside flank and Francois Louw at openside.
Flank Willem Alberts, who is still battling a calf injury, watched the session from the sidelines, and seems unlikely to feature for the second consecutive week.
Meyer is also expected to make a few changes to his bench. Frans Malherbe, Rudy Paige and Morné Steyn may all feature for the first time at this tournament – and in Paige’s case, for the first time in Test rugby – when the Boks front Samoa this Saturday.
Probable Springboks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jean de Villiers (c), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Victor Matfield, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Adriaan Strauss,17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Lood de Jager, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Morné Steyn, 23 Jesse Kriel.