Patrick McKendry

Patrick McKendry is a rugby writer for the Herald.

Rugby: Boks coach Meyer defends conservative selections

Johann Van Graan and Heyneke Meyer look on during a South Africa Springboks captain's run at Patersons Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.
Johann Van Graan and Heyneke Meyer look on during a South Africa Springboks captain's run at Patersons Stadium. Photo / Getty Images.

Heyneke Meyer calls them "soft moments", lapses of discipline which can change games and turn coaches against their walkie-talkies.

Having attempted to throttle his two-way radio during the Springboks' loss against Australian in Perth during one particularly daft act from one of his players - a shoulder charge by prop Tendai Mtawarira - he hopes his side will keep them to a minimum against the All Blacks in Dunedin on Saturday.

And that explains his conservative selections today. Meyer has made only two changes and one of them was forced - lock Flip van der Merwe in for the suspended Eben Etzebeth and Francois Louw replacing Marcell Coetzee as openside flanker.

Morne Steyn retains his place at first-five despite his largely negative approach to the game and the challenge of 20-year-old Johan Goosen, with Zane Kirchner again named at fullback ahead of 21-year-old Pat Lambie.

Steyn had an ordinary Super Rugby season with the Bulls and there is a feeling that he and the Springboks are struggling to keep pace with the modern game. Kicking the ball away doesn't reap the benefits of two or three years ago and the All Blacks have counter-attacking threats in their back three which could send Meyer's blood pressure even higher than it was in Perth last Saturday.

However, he refused to accept that Steyn needed to change his game. Prepare, then, for more of the same from the Boks.

"I'm a big believer that a guy should stick to his strengths," he said. "I think Morne is a great player in his own right and he is a guy who doesn't make a lot of mistakes. I don't think he should change the way he plays, I think it's more the outside backs who must use their opportunities. It's great to have two slightly different types of 10s because then you can play different types of games. Morne has done well for the Boks and I can't see why he must change.

"I believe you shouldn't push a guy like Goosen too early. Coming off the bench against Australia [on debut] I think he did well. But against New Zealand... he hasn't even played a test match in South Africa. We have four Under-20 players in our team now. I've always believed in bringing in youngsters but you need to bring them in slowly. I think we're on the right track with Johan and Morne there."

Louw's selection was an attempt to negate the influence of a loose forward trio which includes skipper Richie McCaw, one of the best players ever, according to Meyer.

"I've got the biggest respect for a guy like Richie McCaw. I think he's probably the best player to have ever played rugby. And he's a leader from the front.

"Every game has its own personality and I always feel that there are one or two big moments that can change a game. I must firstly say that there's a huge difference in playing the All Blacks in South Africa than playing them here. We don't have a good record against them in New Zealand. If you want to win then you have to be tactically astute, your defence has to be impeccable and there needs to be no soft moments in your discipline."

Jannie du Plessis has been named at tighthead prop, despite his hamstring strain.

Juan de Jongh, a specialist centre, has been named on the reserves bench as cover for captain Jean de Villiers, who has played every test this year and is beginning to feel the pinch.

South Africa team to play the All Blacks in Dunedin on Saturday, kick-off 7.35pm: Zane Kirchner, Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers (c), Frans Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Juandre Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira. Reserves: Tiaan Liebenberg, Dean Greyling, Andries Bekker, Marcell Coetzee, Johan Goosen, Juan de Jongh, Patrick Lambie.

- APNZ

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