2 Jun 2012

Meyer shocks South Africa with Springbok squad for England

Heyneke Meyer has raised more than a few eyebrows in South Africa today. Nine uncapped players have been included in his Springbok squad for their three match series against England. There are a few shock omissions too... most notably two men who had been talked up as Meyer's potential captains; 2007 World Cup winning legends Fourie Du Preez and Victor Matfield.

The nine new caps are flankers Marcell Coetzee and Jacques Potgieter, locks Eben Etzebeth, Juandre Kruger and Franco Van der Merwe, fly-half Elton Jantjies, centre JJ Engelbreht, prop Coonie Oosthuizen and scrum-half Jano Vermaak. The introduction of these talents to International rugby meant that there was no room for former Lions destroyer Heinrich Brussow, or the Stormers' electric duo of Juan deJongh and Gio Aplon too. Shocked?

Meyer more adventurous than we realised

Even with injuries to experienced pros such as Schalk Burger and Juan Smith, not many pundits would have predicted such boldness in selection from a coach who is noted for his pragmatism. Meyer had made it patently clear since his appointment that his primary task with the Springboks was to win and nothing else would suffice. In the last few weeks he was quoted by South African media as saying he believed in 'two types of rugby; winning rugby and losing rugby. There is nothing in between for me'.

No room for Bulls Legends: Du Preez and Matfield
Most implied from this that he would stick to the tried and tested Bulls formula with which he had so much success at Super Rugby level. Most also believed that he would therefore trust experience over youth and potential. You couldn't blame him for sticking to his guns either. With three Super Rugby titles in the trophy cabinet, it's hard to argue against.

 It seems we may just have underestimated the man's vision for South Africa's future in terms of personnel though. With influential Boks Victor Matfield and Fourie DuPreez not included, Meyer is disproving the rumours that he would favour past Bulls players who did the business for him. His selections have been adventurous and refreshing, even if this blogger suspects that the forwards oriented game of the Bulls will still be his main philosophy tactically. 

Assessing the new caps

Assessing his squad I must admit that I don't disagree with many of his selections.  Lock was clearly an area of concern given the cavernous void left by the departed Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield. Andries Bekker's long-term injury with the Stormers didn't help matters much either. In a way his hand was forced in that position but no one can doubt the fact that Eben Etzebeth and Juandre Kruger deserve their spots for the brutal way in which they have gone about their campaign in this year's Super 15. Van der Merwe has perhaps profited the most but a spot needed filling and his inclusion will do no harm to the Springboks depth in that area.

Coetzee has been banging the drum all season
As for the selections of Marcell Coetzee and Jacques Potgieter, they had 'PICK ME' etched all over them. Coetzee in particular has been an absolute workehorse for the Sharks and as I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, his lack of recognition from the media is beyond belief. His tackle count is similar to that of a Thierry Dusautoir or Serge Betsen. He could be a key Springbok if given the chance. Together with Keegan Daniel and Willem Alberts, the Sharks have had arguably the most destructive back row in 2012 (i'm omitting their under-par performance against the Lions today), so it is great that Meyer is recognising that.

Heinrich Brussow, the man who effectively lost out, may feel deflated but the reality is that he hasn't returned to his stunning 2009 form for a long time now. Meyer is showing the ruthlessness in selection which perhaps Hansen hasn't showed with the All Blacks. Which attitude will reap more dividends in the long-term? That is the question.

Some of Meyer's other selections seem like prospects for the future. Don't expect to see Oosthuizen, Engelbrecht, Jantjies or Vermaak lining up against England in a weeks time. They are clearly selections based on a long-term strategy aimed at winning the 2015 World cup, much the same as Hansen's selections of the likes of Luke Whitelock, Brad Shields and co for the All Blacks this year.

2012 South Africa squad:

(New Caps in Blue)

Forwards: Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Keegan Daniel, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Ryan Kankowski, Juandré Kruger, Werner Kruger, Tendai Mtawarira, Coenie Oosthuizen, Jacques Potgieter, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Pierre Spies, Adriaan Strauss, Flip van der Merwe, Franco van der Merwe,

Backs: Bjorn Basson, Jean de Villiers, JJ Engelbrecht, Bryan Habana, Francois Hougaard, Elton Jantjies, Zane Kirchner, Patrick Lambie , Lwazi Mvovo, Wynand Olivier, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak.

 Six Players to train with Squad, but not eligible for selection:

Siya Kolisi, Arno Botha, CJ Stander, Francois venter, Piet Van Zyl, Frans Malherbe

What do you make of the Springbok squad to take on England?
Were Juan de Jongh, Gio Aplon and Heinrich Brussow unlucky?


  1. I think Meyer has done what Lancaster did prior to the 6N. We've just finished a 4 year RWC cycle so now is the time to start again, therefore fill up the squad with new blood and give them a run of games to see if they can cut it at international level.

    Some will sink and some will swim, the ones who sink may well be replaced by the ones unlucky to make this cut this time (assuming they keep up their S15 etc performances). Personally it sounds as if Aplon is unlucky, he always seems very slippery whenever I've seen him and Brussow always seems to give his all, but I admit I haven't seen much S15 this year.

    PS great blog, nice to read articles by someone who knows the SH rugby scene, thanks for the link in the Daily Telegraph.

    1. Yes, to be honest Aplon has't been consistently in good form but he is slippery as you said and he has always seemed like a game-breakers in attack for them either off set-piece or counter-attack.

      As for Juan deJongh, i'm very surprised he missed out. He's had a strong season. Meyer must really fancy this young centre Engelbrecht, otherwise it's a rather odd selection.

  2. Aplon been struggling with injuries a bit. I do not think he has done enough. Engelbrecht was signed from WP off course. I am worried about the inclusion of Basson and Kirschner. Those look like lotto picks from the Sports Minister

    1. Now now!

      There's always a fair bit of politicking going on in SA, but to be fair if that was the case...wouldn't Aplon or DeJongh been picked to fill the 'quota'?

      Basson has played well this season in my opinion. As for Kirchner..i've always regarded him as a bit average but i'm guessing he'll only be a squad player anyway.

  3. As a Stormers fan i'm pretty sick that Siya Kolisi wasn't picked in the squad. I know he's in the wider training group but for me he deserved a spot more than Potgieter.

    He was comofortably the best player on the park last weekend when the Stormers beat the Bulls.

    Other than that though, i'm giving Meyer the benefit of the doubt.
    I don't think it's going to be great rugby to watch as a Springbok fan, but it could well be 'winning rugby' as you mentioned in the post.

    1. I think he was unlucky too. If he keeps improving though, he won't be able to give Meyer a choice. He will demand selection.

      He has youth on his side so maybe we will see him in the Autumn or even in the Rugby Championship (if there are injuries).

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