Heyneke Meyer believes that JP Pietersen can cover both centre and wing for the Springboks at the 2015 World Cup. JON CARDINELLI reports.
On Wednesday, Meyer named his Springbok side to play against the World XV. The Bok coach believes it is the strongest available combination, a statement that has raised some eyebrows considering the quality of centres who have not made the starting cut.
Both Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie would have started in the June internationals if they were not sidelined with serious injuries. Frans Steyn has always been viewed by Meyer as a strong alternative to De Villiers at No 12, but the Bok coach has been less certain of his back-up No 13.
JJ Engelbrecht started at outside centre for the Boks in the 2013 June Test series. Unfortunately for the youngster, he has lost form while playing for the Bulls over the past few months.
Pietersen has been favoured ahead of Engelbrecht and Juan de Jongh, who are both specialist No 13s. Meyer said on Wednesday that the selection has been made with the long-term in mind, and that if there are injuries, Pietersen may well start at No 13 at the 2015 World Cup.
‘I’ve been watching JP while he’s been playing centre for his club side in Japan. He’s a strong runner and I wanted to give him a chance in this match to see how he goes,’ said Meyer.
‘You are limited to picking 30 or so players in a World Cup squad, so it helps to have players who are versatile. I really believe that JP can be a great centre option. If you think about some of the great centres, such as [former All Blacks captain] Tana Umaga, they started on the wing before shifting to midfield.’
Pietersen has also played at No 13 for the Sharks, and it will help that he is playing alongside his franchise team-mate, namely Frans Steyn, in the fixture against the World XV. Nick Mallett’s side certainly won’t view that Bok midfield as a potential weak point.
Ruan Pienaar will partner Morné Steyn in the halfbacks. This is the same combination that played in the last game of the Boks’ 2013 season against France.
Meyer said he had made this call because of Fourie du Preez’s lack of game time in recent months, and with continuity in mind. He added that he will also be looking at what flyhalf Johan Goosen can bring to the mix over the next few games, be it from the bench or as a starter.
‘I didn’t want to make too many changes for this game, as we want to start the season strongly,’ he said. ‘I did consider playing Johan and even a guy like Damian de Allende [who was recently ruled out of the series with a serious injury]. Handré Pollard was also very close to [playing in] this side. The race for the No 10 jersey is still open.’
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