Springbok rookies to be tested

Date published: June 28 2014

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Saturday's Test against Scotland will provide an indicator of the depth of the Springboks' resources ahead of next year's World Cup.

Saturday's Test against Scotland will provide a key indicator of the depth of Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer's resources ahead of next year's World Cup.

Meyer's team have come a long way since they drew their third Test against England at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth in June 2012.

It was the mentor's first series victory and his first in charge with little time to instil his ethos into the national side.

Three years later at the same venue, Meyer finds himself in a similar position as his side goes into battle against Scotland with a host of debutantes and untried combinations.

Meyer has been preaching continuity for the last three years and will be slightly uneasy about what to expect from his inexperienced charges.

Seven of the European-based players – the core of the Springbok side – have been released to their clubs forcing Meyer to introduce new blood.

“There are 13 changes which are not ideal, I believe you have to have some kind of continuity, but it was always the plan (to make wholesale changes),” Meyer said in the build-up to the Test.

“It is the first time we will be playing a fourth Test (during the June internationals) which is what we will face at the World Cup.”

The risk factor lies in the inexperienced bench with four-uncapped players named there.

Meyer will be hoping his starting XV can secure victory in the first hour not leave that responsibility to his replacements.

“When I went for a bigger squad I received a lot of criticism but I believe it was the right thing to do,” said Meyer.

“We would have given a lot guys chances in this game, but probably not as many. I am really excited about this team, and a lot of the youngsters will get an opportunity to show me where they stand.”

Springbok captain Victor Matfield said on Friday while the team was brimming with debutantes nothing less than the best would be expected of the side on Saturday.

“It is not a young Springbok side going out on Saturday, it is the Springbok side. So there is responsibility on each and everyone going onto the field and they have to go out and perform,” said Matfield.

“They've been in the system for four weeks and now they have to show what they can do.”

The greatest responsibility will rest on the shoulders of the youngest member of the team, Handre Pollard, making his senior debut.

The 20-year-old had graduated from the SA Under-20 side after three years as a feature at the Junior World Championship.

Only a week after representing his country at the JWC final against England in New Zealand, he has been thrust into the limelight to stake a claim for the Springboks.

Playing with a maturity that belies his young age, Pollard could be taking his first steps towards winning a place in next year's World Cup squad.

While incumbent fly-half Morne Steyn seems to have cemented his place, Meyer has yet to find an understudy.

The youngster's stellar rise to prominence had been predicted and it would not be unreasonable to suggest Pollard could make an impact at the global showpiece.

Speaking of the fly-half prodigy, Matfield believed Pollard had the right temperament to play at international level.

“Handre is a very mature guy. He will probably be nervous but you will never see it from him,” said Matfield.

“He is a confident person and he has Jan Serfontein, who he played with at the SA Under-20s and Fourie du Preez on his inside with a lot experience.

“It is a big day for him and I hope he comes through with distinction. I think he is a brilliant player that could in future mean a lot to South Africa.”

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