Guest writer Mike Bersiks completes our final analysis of the Bok v Aus test match.
Nobody likes a smart arse that says I told you so, but everybody likes to be one when they are proved right! Well in this case most Springbok supporters are basking in the glow of having called for the introduction of Johan Goosen at flyhalf.
As I pointed out in a previous piece it hasn’t been just the introduction of Goosen that saw the Boks hammer Australia at Loftus on the weekend. Heynecke Meyer started off very conservatively in selection, but he has gradually made the changes that led to a five-try mauling for the Wallabies. Meyer realised that his backline would never get going with the poor-service of Francois Hougaard at scrumhalf and installed Ruan Pienaar at number nine after the draw against Argentina. He also brought Francois Louw into the Bok squad, as the fact that the Bok loose-trio was getting outplayed at the breakdown started to hit home. Duane Vermeulen started the next Test against Australia in Perth, and Louw joined him to finally balance out the loosies in Dunedin. It’s no surprise that the Bok forwards have enjoyed their best two games under Meyer’s tenure since then.
With the Bok forwards in the ascendancy the stage was set for the introduction of Goosen and Jaco Taute – and the youngsters didn’t disappoint. Goosen looks like the real deal. He probably should have had a try on his starting debut with the type of break that we haven’t seen a Bok number 10 make in a long time. We know Goosen can kick from Super Rugby. Let’s hope those early misses against Australia were just the result of too much adrenalin pumping and that Goosen can become an 80% goalkicker at Test level. Perhaps giving him a 55-metre plus angled kick at goal to start off with was the wrong call. Knocking that one into the corner for a line-out and starting the 20-year-old with a more straightforward shot at goal may have been wiser to calm the nerves down. I also feel that it’s more than a little bit disingenuous for Bok skipper Jean de Villiers to claim that there was no change of gameplan from the last match in Dunedin. Sure, Meyer might have sent them out with the same instructions to play what they see in front of them, but the reality is that an out of form and low on confidence Morne Steyn is going to play safety first nine times out of ten, whereas Goosen showed what could be done with plenty of good ball provided by a dominant pack.
Although my provincial allegiances are with the Lions, I must admit that I wasn’t 100% convinced by Taute when I first saw him play. Physically Taute is the complete package – big, strong and fast. But, he looked pretty average under the high-ball at fullback, although he caught the eye with some great counterattacking from the back and linking with his backline. Moving him to outside centre seems to have done the trick – and the Lions do have a history of providing powerful Springbok number 13s (Fuls, Mulder, Fourie). Taute’s not afraid to offload, he was involved in couple of the Springbok tries and knocked a few Wallabies backwards in defence on Saturday. A good start to what could be a long Bok career. With Frans Steyn ruled out for the rest of the year, continuing with Jean de Villiers at 12 and Taute at 13 looks to be Meyer’s best bet and means that he doesn’t have to make the hard choice of choosing between an out-of-form captain or an up and coming youngster when selecting his team.
Meyer has talked a lot about rebuilding, but we’ve seen this mostly with the Bok forwards until now. The Boks also have the prospect of players like Goosen (20-years-old), Taute (21), Pat Lambie (21) and Elton Jantjies (22) maturing together in their backline for the next couple of World Cup cycles, and that’s pretty exciting! Not to mention that the likes of Frans Steyn (25), JP Pietersen (26), Juan de Jongh (24), Ruan Pienaar (27) and Francois Hougaard (24) are hardly near the end of their careers. The next piece in the puzzle for Meyer to ponder over remains some consistent goalkicking, because that’s one part of the game that is sure to hurt the Boks if it can’t be sorted out.