Whiteley, Koch to play with freedom

Date published: July 10 2015

Heyneke Meyer has given Warren Whiteley and Vincent Koch the freedom to express themselves in the green and gold this coming weekend.

The Springbok team announcement on Wednesday saw Whiteley named at number eight and debutant prop Koch playing off the bench.

Meyer confirmed that the next five games will be a trial run for players like Koch and Whiteley to prove their worth in the Bok jersey ahead of the World Cup.

Koch provides phenomenal power and during Super Rugby showed a remarkable ability to win penalties for his side at scrum time. Although he will be nervous ahead of Saturday's game, Meyer has set his mind at ease and told him to play his natural game.

"Coach Meyer encouraged me to stick to my normal game I played at the Stormers as I was good enough there and that earned me a spot in the Bok team."

The humble Koch said he didn't expect to be called up to the national team so soon.

"I was speechless when I saw my inclusion in the Bok team I didn't think that I would be called up so soon in my career, and to be a part of the Boks is just amazing," he added.

"It has always been a dream of mine to wear the Springbok jersey and when I started at the Stormers that wasn't my focus at all, but in the end all the hard work paid off."

Whiteley, another hard-working player, has received the same message from Meyer to stick to his own preferred style of play.

"It's a fantastic opportunity for me to get a start at eight. I've learned a lot in the last few years at the Lions and hopefully I can contribute this weekend," said the Lions captain. 

Although Whitley has big boots to fill he says he can't be compared to Duane Vermeulen as he has a different playing style, adding that "no one can compete with Duane."

"Duane is probably the best number eight in the world and he is irreplaceable. I'm just going to do my job on the field this weekend and focus on my strengths," explained Whitley.

"One of my best strengths is my work rate on the field. I've always enjoyed working hard. I've only played 33 minutes of Test rugby and this will be a great opportunity for me to improve and adapt to the Springbok game plan."

Meyer, however, expressed his concern about the team's lack of depth at number eight since Vermeulen and Willem Alberts are both still unavailable.

"I'm a little bit worried about the number eight position, Schalk (Burger) can play there but he's not a classical eight and at this stage he's the cover at eight for Warren," said Meyer.

"Also Schalk has been struggling with injury and only started training on Tuesday, so he's not a hundred percent fit."

The Springbok mentor has shifted his loose trio combination to see how players can perform outside their preferred positions and also to see how combinations flow with Marcell Coetzee starting at blindside flank.

"Although Marcel is comfortable at openside flank I want to see what he and Flouw (Francois Louw) can do together as they are both excellent ground players facing off against the best in the likes of Steffon Armitage, and with Warren there we have a linker as well, so it's a interesting loose trio," he explained.

Another area of concern for Meyer is in the second row as injury has forced him to include Oupa Mohoje on the bench to provide cover at lock. Mahojo's preferred position is at flank but Meyer says this weekend will be an opportunity for players to show their versatility.