Springboks gamble with new caps

by Staff Writer

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer gambled on Wednesday by choosing uncapped Johan Goosen and Duane Vermeulen in his Rugby Championship squad for away Tests against Australia and New Zealand next month.

Fly-half Goosen and No.8 Vermeulen have just returned to Currie Cup action after long injury lay-offs and respective coaches Naka Drotske of the Cheetahs and Allister Coetzee of the Stormers believe they are not ready for Test action.

However, Meyer is desperate to silence critics after the public and media turned on him following a undeserved 16-16 draw away to newcomers Argentina last weekend in the southern hemisphere championship.

The coach defended his selections in a statement: "While Duane and Johan are medically fit, their coaches felt it necessary that they get more game time in the Currie Cup this weekend.

"But as we do not have a lot of time to prepare and need as much time with them as possible to get them used to our structures and game plans, the decision was taken to select them for the tour.

"I regard both of them as world-class players. If it was not for injuries, Duane would have been a Springbok long ago. I also believe Johan has a long career ahead of him at Test level."

Vermeulen has been kept out of the Springbok team by now injured Pierre Spies while 20-year-old Goosen is a phenomenal place kicker who finished sixth among the leading Super 15 scorers despite missing half the season.

Areas of major concern in the team have been fly-half, where Morne Steyn has lost some of his place-kicking magic and lacks flair, and a back row that came off second best to Los Pumas in the breakdown battle.

The Springboks face Australia, reeling from two defeats in as many weekends by New Zealand, on September 8 in Perth and the rampant All Blacks in Dunedin a week later.

South Africa have poor away records against the Wallabies and the All Blacks and Meyer has added four players and axed two from the squad that travelled to Argentina.

Apart from the introduction of Goosen and Vermeulen, centre Juan de Jongh and flank Francois Louw from English club Bath are recalled while wing-cum-centre JJ Engelbrecht and loose forward Keegan Daniel drop out.

De Jongh was part of the squad for the 27-6 home Test victory over Argentina and openside flank Louw comes back after being ignored since the Springboks lost to Australia in a 2011 World Cup quarter-final.

Touring Squad

Backs: Jean de Villiers (capt), Bryan Habana, Johan Goosen, Francois Hougaard, Juan de Jongh, Zane Kirchner, Patrick Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo, Ruan Pienaar, Frans Steyn, Morne Steyn, Jano Vermaak.

Forwards: Willem Alberts, Andries Bekker, Craig Burden, Pat Cilliers, Marcell Coetzee, Jannie du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Dean Greyling, Juandre Kruger, Tiaan Liebenberg, Francois Louw, Tendai Mtawarira, Jacques Potgieter, Adriaan Strauss, Flip van der Merwe, Duane Vermeulen.

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