Heyneke Meyer says the development of Oupa Mohoje has gone according to plan and that the flanker deserves to start against the Wallabies on Saturday. JON CARDINELLI reports.
Mohoje was selected for the Springbok training squad in early June on the basis of his potential rather than his Super Rugby achievements. Even now, he has only started five games at that level for the Cheetahs. It's fair to say he is still a work in progress.
Over the past four months, the Bok coaching staff has worked hard with Mohoje behind the scenes. He may have been overlooked as a starting option when Willem Alberts broke down with injury at the start of the Rugby Championship, but Meyer is adamant that there has always been a plan to start the 24-year-old when he was good and ready.
On Wednesday, Meyer said that the time is now right to deploy Mohoje as a starter. The player was informed of the opportunity as early as last week, and the Bok coach believes he will make an impact at Newlands this Saturday.
‘There’s always been a plan with Oupa,’ Meyer said. ‘He has impressed me in the games he has played for the Cheetahs, especially in terms of his lineout play and ball-carrying. However, we knew that he was still inexperienced, and that he hadn’t played away from home [overseas] before. We had to take that into account, as well as the fact that other players [such as Warren Whiteley] could cover No 8 from the bench.
‘I’ve got a feeling that Oupa is going to have a great game this weekend. He has a big role to play, but it’s not as if this will be his one and only chance. I believe he will play many games for the Boks in future.
‘We have been working hard with him these past few months, and he has been working towards this opportunity. He deserves to start.’
Mohoje struggled to contain his excitement when speaking to the media on Wednesday. He said that he is anything but annoyed with the lack of game time.
On the contrary, Mohoje feels he needed the extra time to work on several aspects of his game.
‘It’s been a privilege just to be here [in the squad],’ said Mohoje. ‘Coach Heyneke has always been honest with me. I always knew where I stood.
‘I’ve worked hard on my conditioning, and with forwards coach Johann van Graan on my running angles. I’m looking forward to getting my chance.
‘Willem Alberts has left some big boots to fill [at blindside flank], but I’m confident about my ball-carrying and my lineout ability. If I play the way I know I can, I feel I will do well.’
Photo: Manus van Dyk/Gallo Images