Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has made wholesale changes to his under-performing team for South Africa’s crucial Rugby Championship encounter with Australia in Perth on Saturday.
In all there are five changes from the starting XV that played to an uninspiring 16-all draw with Argentina in Mendoza two weeks ago
Perhaps the most significant of the changes is the inclusion of Duane Vermeulen who will make his Bok debut at No.8 in a revamped loose forward combination. Vermeulen’s inclusion at No.8 sees Willem Alberts move to the flank in place of Jacques Potgieter, who has been left out altogether. Bath’s Francois Louw will provide cover and an openside option from the bench.
|Action man... Duane Vermeulen in action for the Stormers|
Another noteworthy change is a positional one with Francois Hougaard moving to the wing and Ruan Pienaar at coming in at scrumhalf.
The next bold move sees lock Andries Bekker dropped from the matchday 22 altogether after a sub-par performance in the draw with Argentina. In his place comes Bulls lock Juandré Kruger who will start alongside young star Eben Etzebeth, with Flip van der Merwe providing lock cover on the bench. It is widely believed the 2.08 metres tall Bekker is struggling to regain his best form because of on-going back problems.
The inclusion of young Cheetahs flyhalf Johan Goosen on the bench is the other big bolter in Meyer’s selection.
Hooker and vice-captain Adriaan Strauss, meanwhile, has been included in the starting XV despite injury concerns after he came through a first set of fitness tests. He will be given until Friday to make a full recovery from his knee trouble.
Speaking at a media briefing after naming his squad, Meyer said Vermeulen’s inclusion, despite his lack of game-time, would bring more balance to the team.
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“We’ve decided to put Duane straight into the starting team because he is a classic No.8, a position we’ve lacked in since Pierre Spies got injured and Ryan Kankowski moved to Japan,” Meyer said. “I’ve always admired the way Duane plays rugby and he’s fitted in very well the past week. He would’ve been a Springbok years ago if it had not been for injuries and it’s great to finally see him selected.”
“The same goes for Johan (Goosen), who in my mind can become one of the great flyhalves in world rugby,” Meyer added. “I’ve been very impressed with his work ethic and attitude since he joined the squad on Thursday in Johannesburg and we will keep on managing him carefully over the next few weeks.”
Commenting on the other changes to the Springboks, Meyer said: “Ruan (Pienaar) brings a more tactical approach to scrumhalf, while I’ve always been impressed with Francois at wing. At lock we’ve decided to go for Juandré as he plays more to the ball. Juandré and Eben played well as a combination in the June Tests against England. By including Francois on the bench, we have a specialist openside flank, but also a versatile loose forward that brings a bit more balance to our back row mix.”
The Springbok team boast a total of 451 Test caps, 339 of which are in the backline, while the forwards have a combined total 112.
South Africa XV v Australia
15. Zane Kirchner, 14. Bryan Habana, 13. Jean de Villiers (captain), 12. Frans Steyn, 11. Francois Hougaard, 10. Morné Steyn, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Juandré Kruger, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Adriaan Strauss, 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16. Tiaan Liebenberg, 17. Pat Cilliers, 18. Flip van der Merwe, 19. Francois Louw, 20. Johan Goosen, 21. Patrick Lambie, 22. Lwazi Mvovo
Australia v South Africa
Date: Saturday, September 8
Kick-off: 12:00 SA Time
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)