Bakkies’ call-up will add to Heyneke’s ‘learn­ing curve’ ap­proach to Bok young­sters

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - JAC­QUES WESTHUYZEN

SPRING­BOK coach Heyneke Meyer hasn’t ruled out the pos­si­bil­ity that vet­eran lock pair­ing Bakkies Botha and Vic­tor Mat­field could be part of the Boks’ chal­lenge at the 2015 World Cup in Eng­land.

But, the na­tional coach has made no prom­ises to any­one, adding he be­lieves the younger pair­ing of Eben Etze­beth and Pi­eter- Steph du Toit could be­come even more in­flu­en­tial for Bok rugby than Botha and Mat­field were in their hey­day.

Botha, 34 and cur­rently play­ing for Toulon, is in the Bok squad for the first time since the 2011 World Cup and will come into con­sid­er­a­tion for the Tests this month against Wales, Scot­land and France, while talk in Pre­to­ria is that Mat­field, who re­tired from the game at the end of 2011 and has been coach­ing the Bulls, is in train­ing to make a come­back next year.

Meyer has high praise for both Botha and Mat­field and ad­mit­ted yes­ter­day, ahead of the Boks’ de­par­ture to Europe to­day, that he had a long-term plan with Botha.

“I’ve al­ways rated Bakkies and if he shows he’s good enough there’s no rea­son why he shouldn’t play Test rugby again,” said Meyer. “But he might also not get a game, he may just be there to sup­port the young­sters.

“When you go to a World Cup you need three to five top play­ers in each po­si­tion, so this tour is a chance for Bakkies to show if he’s up for it. There is a long-term plan with him.”

Meyer added the only per­son who knew whether Mat­field was still good enough to play Su­per Rugby and Test rugby was the player him­self.

“Vic­tor’s com­ing back into the game is not in my hands. But I be­lieve we need qual­ity No 5 locks in this coun­try. If he’s good enough, he’s young enough, and he’s prob­a­bly still up there with the best locks around. Vic­tor’s an un­be­liev- able ath­lete and to win Tests you need to take your li­ne­out ball and take the kick­offs ... it’s what cost us re­cently against the All Blacks, and it’s among Vic­tor’s strengths. But only he will know whether he’s still good enough.”

While Meyer is con­cerned about the lack of gen­uine class at No 5 lock, he’s sug­gested the pic­ture is look­ing bet­ter than be­fore.

“Flip van der Merwe’s done well for us at 5, Pi­eter-Steph can grow into a great 5-lock and Eben as well. We need young No 5s to come through and I be­lieve that Eben and Pi­eterSteph can play 100 Tests to­gether for the Boks, but in th­ese (north­ern hemi­sphere) con­di­tions you need a blend (at lock).”

Sur­prise squad in­clu­sions, hooker Scarra Ntubeni and scrumhalf Louis Schreuder, are not likely to get game-time on tour, and nei­ther will fly­half Jo­han Goosen.

“I want Scarra and Louis to learn from the ex­pe­ri­enced guys in their po­si­tions,” said Meyer. “The third choice play­ers rarely get a chance, but I think tour­ing will be great for their de­vel­op­ment.

“And in the case of Jo­han, I’ve al­ways rated him and when you go to the World Cup you need three fly­halves. He’s not where he should be (af­ter his in­jury lay­off), but he can now spend three weeks in train­ing with us. He’ll only play if there’s an in­jury, but this is anop­por­tu­nity for him to work on his tac­ti­cal game, some­thing I feel still needs at­ten­tion.”

Two re­called vet­er­ans who are al­most cer­tain to start against Wales next weekend, are cen­tre Jaque Fourie and wing JP Pi­etersen.

“A world class player is a world class player and while they haven’t been in the sys­tem, I know they’ll pro­duce,” said the coach.

“Jaque’s or­gan­i­sa­tional qual­i­ties at the back are the best I’ve seen and af­ter just one train­ing ses­sion you can see how he lifts the guys around him. And again, I want JJ ( En­gel­brecht) and Jan ( Ser­fontein) to learn from Jaque and Jean de Vil­liers. At 30 Jaque has his best years in front of him, while Jean was writ­ten off, but is play­ing the best rugby of his ca­reer.”


BAKK IN THE MIX: Bakkies Botha re­turns to the Boks for the first time since 2011.


OLD BUT STILL GOLD: Vic­tor Mat­field can re­lay ex­pe­ri­ence to the younger Bok locks.

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