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Fri Apr 18 10:04:06 SAST 2014

Bok coach is banking on the newbies

LIAM DEL CARME in Perth | 07 September, 2012 06:311 Comments
The Castle Rugby Championship: Springboks media briefing in Johannesburg, South Africa
Duane Vermeulen during the South African national rugby team media briefing at Sandton Sun Hotel on August 31, 2012 in Johannesburg
Image by: Duif du Toit / Gallo Images

TIME, that most precious of commodities recently installed Springbok coaches covet most, has been in short supply, perhaps sooner than Heyneke Meyer expected.

Meyer's Boks, with three wins and two draws, have not lived up to expectations against England and Argentina, now their most searching examination is upon them.

They play the Wallabies tomorrow and the need to improve on their most recent performance - a 16-all draw with Argentina - cannot be over-stressed.

Meyer inherited a side that required urgent reconstruction, and while most of the game's close observers recognise this fact in their early assessment of the coach, the way in which he has gone about his business has not found universal approval.

In their first five matches under Meyer, the Boks have lacked the cohesion and conviction one might have expected of a team under the tutelage of the former Super rugby and Currie Cup winning coach.

Although it is stripped of the intricacies of what the All Blacks and the Wallabies hold up as a playing blueprint, the Springboks have struggled to implement a maligned game plan.

Meyer has staunchly defended his unambitious game plan. But the bulk of his defence has been based on how it is perceived, rather than combing it over for shortfalls.

With his team set to take on the Wallabies tomorrow and the All Blacks next weekend, the courage of the coach's convictions is likely to come under siege.

Meyer is convinced that he is "on the right track" but his players, sooner than later, need to grasp and properly execute what is asked of them. He is exasperated that they have failed to do so.

While Wallabies coach Robbie Deans has demanded greater accuracy from his players, there will be more pressure on the Springboks to go about their business with deeper focus.

Forthright Wallabies coaching co-ordinator Tony McGahan suggested the home side needed improvement "pretty much everywhere" but at least they knew what was coming.

"South Africa and New Zealand approach the game in a very different way. The Springboks are very physical, they have a high kicking game and they play from the back of the set piece . very simplistic. It suits the psyche, it suits the player group.

"In the last five games it is quite clear that they've gone back to very simple, very clear-cut plays. They know exactly who's doing what, at what point in time," said McGahan.

Meyer has rearranged the deck chairs by introducing Duane Vermeulen, Ruan Pienaar and Juandre Kruger to the starting XV - changes designed to embolden his convictions.

He hopes Vermeulen will exact a greater physical toll in the collision, that Kruger's high work rate incorporates more effective cleaning at the rucks, while Pienaar's educated boot leaves the Wallaby back three high and dry.

That will represent improvements on their performance in Mendoza. Whether it is enough to secure their first away win under Meyer remains to be seen.

The game will kick off at 12.35pm South Africa time.

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