Meyer backs ‘fighter’ JDV

Date published: September 23 2015

It was "one of the most difficult decisions of his life" but head coach Heyneke Meyer is standing by captain Jean de Villiers to lead South Africa into battle against Samoa this weekend.

Both captain and coach came in for severe criticism following last Saturday’s shock defeat against Japan, and Meyer said he "thought long and hard" about whether to stick with his skipper.
But, despite making eight changes to the starting line-up beaten in Brighton, the coach concluded that his outside centre of 108 caps is exactly the character he needs for an occasion such as Saturday’s key match at Villa Park.
"It was of the most difficult decisions of my life to make," Meyer said at a media conference at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham on Wednesday.
"You are almost in a lose-lose situation because if you don’t pick your captain and you lose, they say you should have picked your captain, and if you do pick your captain and you lose, then you shouldn’t have stuck with your captain.
"It’s not an emotional decision. I thought about it long and hard and came to the conclusion that this is a must-win game and who are you going to back?
"I had a long and hard chat with him and I just decided as a coach, and I will stand by my decision, that if you go into a fight that you have to win, that your whole career and whole country depends on, I really want to take a guy that has had six knee operations.
"I want to go with a guy like that into a fight that we have to win because I know he wants to play for South Africa, I know he is a fighter and I know it is the best for the team."
Adriaan Strauss has also been judged as the best choice for the team, taking the place of hooker Bismarck du Plessis to reach the personal milestone of 50 caps.

But Meyer revealed that Strauss will shun any added attention in order to ensure all focus remains on the job at hand.

The coach added: "This is his 50th game and he says he does not want to run in front. He doesn’t care about his 50th game, he just wants to go out there and win for South Africa and that’s the attitude we need.
"It’s not about individuals now, or egos. We need to go out there and give a performance we can be proud of.
"I don’t want to take anything away from Adriaan, but we don’t want to bring emotion into it. We have to go out there and play as a team."
Key to South Africa’s united approach on Saturday will be the new half-back partnership of Handre Pollard and Fourie du Preez, while Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen and Damian De Allende return in the backline.
Eben Etzebeth is back in the pack where he will join highly-rated number eight, Duane Vermeulen, who makes his first test appearance of the year having struggled with a neck injury.
On the bench, Schalk Brits and Frans Malherbe make their first appearance on a Rugby World Cup teamsheet.