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