Heyneke Meyer believes starting two fetchers in the back row will improve the Springboks’ chances of beating the All Blacks on Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Johannesburg.
Meyer’s hand has been forced in the lead-up to the biggest match of the Rugby Championship. The injury situation is such that the Boks will field a new captain, as well as a new-look back row.
The absence of Jean de Villiers and Victor Matfield sees Schalk Burger elevated to the position of skipper. Burger will lead the side from the No 8 position, and not from No 7 as was initially expected.
The Bok injury situation is such that they don’t possess the players to execute their regular game plan. Big ball carriers such as Duane Vermeulen and Willem Alberts are unavailable. Marcell Coetzee was recently ruled out due to a knee injury.
Meyer has responded by picking a new back row, and altering the team’s tactics. While it was always his intention to give Heinrich Brüssow an opportunity before the World Cup, the injury situation has influenced his decision to pick three loose forwards who all play towards the ball.
‘I’ve had to change the game plan because of the injuries. That said, I still feel this can work in a game of this nature,’ the Bok coach said.
‘The battle on the ground is going to be all-important. While you may lose something at the lineout when you select Heinrich [a short loose forward by international standards] you will gain a lot at the breakdown.
‘I’ve said it before, Francois Louw is one of the best opensides around. I’m excited to see what they can do as a combination. I've picked Warren Whiteley on the bench because I think the game will open up in the last 20 minutes.’
Brüssow has not played for Meyer’s team before. The match against the All Blacks this Saturday will be his first Test in nearly four years.
The openside flank only recently recovered from a broken arm. Meyer said this is why he didn't feature in the two previous matches against the World XV and Australia. The Bok coach wanted to ensure that Brüssow was fully fit before throwing him back into Test rugby.
‘Heinrich has always known where he’s stood with me. At one stage, he got too big, and that limited his speed around the park. I told him to work on that, and he actually lost some weight when he spent some time in Japan [playing for the Docomo Red Hurricanes]. He’s made a great improvement.
‘This is the right game to give him a chance. There will be a lot of changes to the side over the next few weeks [when the Boks play Argentina in two matches], so I also want to make sure he has the best opportunity to make an impact [playing alongside some other experienced Bok players].
‘Heinrich has always done well against the All Blacks. I’m looking forward to seeing how he goes against Richie McCaw and the other All Blacks loose forwards at the breakdown.’
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