Meyer admits pre-planned selections

Date published: September 25 2013

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has admitted players were told weeks in advance which Rugby Championship games they would start.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has admitted players were told weeks in advance which Rugby Championship games they would start.

Meyer has elected to rotate two key positions in his squad for the visit of Australia to Newlands this Saturday.

Experienced scrum-half Fourie du Preez and hooker Adriaan Strauss come into the starting line-up in place of Ruan Pienaar and Bismarck du Plessis, both of whom drop to the bench.

Though Strauss' return to the starting XV was largely anticipated, there was much speculation as to which of the Springboks' number-nines would get the nod from Meyer.

Though both are quality players, they have drastically dissimilar styles of play, and cater to different game plans. Du Preez left South Africa to pursue his club career in Japan two years ago, and the fast-paced gameplay has boosted his already world-class distribution.

In this case, Du Preez's slick service, leadership and superb rugby intelligence is preferred to Pienaar's ability with the boot, but Meyer sought to provide clarity on the rationale behind his decision this morning.

“First off I want to make it clear that I didn't drop those guys (Du Plessis and Pienaar) as they both know where they stand and I can tell you now that Bismarck will be back as the starting hooker for the next match we play,” said Meyer.

“The trust there is between a player and a coach is one of the biggest things in rugby and we had an agreement before the international season started when Bismarck would start and when Adriaan would start. I am a simple person and a simple coach and I like to keep things simple.

“As far as possible I want to keep the squad together as a 23-man group, and the players know where they stand and when they are going to be used.

“That does not mean performance is not a factor in selection. It is very important, and I have told the players that what I am loyal to is not the individual, but to performance. We want what is best for the team, and while Ruan is an outstanding scrumhalf and has built experience, I just believe that Fourie is in a league of his own in that position.

“When [Fourie] is present I feel like we have another coach on the field. He has enormous influence and leadership ability, and is a good organiser. Jean de Villiers as the captain is also a good organiser, but having Fourie there takes a lot of pressure off Jean.

“Fourie is a great player not just for his kicking, which everyone knows about, but also for his ability to take gaps and to put players in spaces. His speed of pass has really improved since he has been in Japan and that is a big plus for us.”

Meyer has also been at pains to emphasise his feeling that both Strauss and Du Plessis possess crucial leadership qualities.

“The hookers are both good leaders and whichever one starts assumes the vice-captaincy responsibilities,” added Meyer.

“Hooker and scrumhalf are not the only positions where I feel we have good depth and that I am really comfortable with. That is the case with quite a few positions in this team. However, hooker and scrumhalf are the positions where the players touch the ball the most so I think it is particularly important that there the players are fresh and also get a chance to play.”