Meyer to make tough rugby

World Cup

CityPress - - Sport - DAN RETIEF dan.retief@city­press.co.za

The el­e­vated ter­rain on which the rugby fields of St Peter’s Col­lege in Johannesburg are si­t­u­ated will soon – for some Spring­boks – be re­mem­bered as Heart­break Hill. Spring­bok coach Heyneke Meyer last week as­sem­bled a 49-man squad of the good, the wounded and the hope­ful to start se­ri­ous prepa­ra­tions for the rugby World Cup. For the Spring­boks, the tour­na­ment kicks off on Septem­ber 19, now 75 days away, but in be­tween there will be two friendly test matches and the Rugby Cham­pi­onship for Meyer to hone his troops.

It could be said that the gath­er­ing in Johannesburg rep­re­sents a point of no re­turn for the coach, es­pe­cially as his cho­sen group in­cludes an alarm­ing list of 13 in­jured play­ers – in­clud­ing key men such as cap­tain Jean de Vil­liers, scrum half Fourie du Preez and No 8 Duane Ver­meulen.

The in­escapable fact is that Meyer, an hon­est and de­cent man, is soon go­ing to be the vil­lain as he shat­ters many dreams.

World Cup squads must con­sist of 31 play­ers and, with 49 at the coach’s camp, 18 of those called up will not be mak­ing the trip to Eng­land. Some will fail be­cause they won’t re­cover from in­juries in time, but oth­ers will be cut be­cause se­lec­tion im­per­a­tives will force Meyer to leave them out.

The fact is that Meyer does not have much room to ma­noeu­vre.

Nine of his 31-man squad will have to be front-row for­wards be­cause of safety con­cerns and not want­ing to be caught short dur­ing the tour­na­ment.

Three other po­si­tions will be filled by scrum halves, mean­ing there will be only 19 po­si­tions re­main­ing.

Meyer’s con­cern about get­ting the mix right is re­vealed by the fact that he sum­moned 13 props and hook­ers to his camp and five scrum halves.

The coach will also be forced to do some smart jug­gling – not only to get the mix right but also to sat­isfy the trans­for­ma­tion de­mands that have been thrown his way.

At loose for­ward, for in­stance, Meyer will no doubt field what has be­come his go-to trio of Ver­meulen, Willem Al­berts and Fran­cois Louw.

But lin­ing up be­hind them, with not too much to choose from be­tween them in terms of abil­ity, are the for­mi­da­ble trio of Schalk Burger, Oupa Mo­hojé and Mar­cell Coet­zee.

Siya Kolisi, Hein­rich Brüs­sow and War­ren White­ley also need to be con­sid­ered, but the ideal would be only five loose for­wards.

There­fore, apart from his fer­vent hope that skip­per De Vil­liers and king­pin Du Preez will make it back to full fit­ness in time, Meyer will have to look some very good play­ers in the eye and say: “I’m sorry, but you’re not go­ing.”

PHOTO: SA­BELO MNGOMA / BACKPAGEPIX

KEY MAN The in­jured Fourie du Preez is at the Spring­bok World Cup train­ing camp

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