Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer believes the form-based selections in his squad prove that he is ‘loyal to performance’.
Meyer sprung a few surprises at Newlands on Saturday when he announced his squad for the incoming tour this month with nine uncapped players in an inflated group of 34.
With some players still recovering from injury Meyer opted for a larger squad with one eye on the upcoming Rugby Championship as well.
“It is great to have a bigger squad because we can train better, and we also want to use this squad to prepare for the Rugby Championship,” he said.
Meyer said that he did his best to reward players who have shown good form in Super Rugby this year.
“The great thing is there are nine uncapped players, and six guys who are in the squad for the first time. It shows the players that if you really play hard in Super Rugby there is always a chance to play for your country,” he said.
Whilst the selection of promising young players such as Jan Serfontein and Pieter-Step du Toit was widely anticipated the biggest surprise was the selection of Cheetahs tighthead prop Lourens Adriaanse who did not attend the most recent Springbok camp in Durban but was picked ahead of the Sharks’ Wiehan Herbst.
Meyer explained that with many Cheetahs players set to play an impact role for the Boks from the bench, Adriaanse’s established partnership with the other Cheetahs forwards tipped the scales in his favour.
“I always said that we were going to look at players outside the squad. In a sense it is quite tough on the other guys but Lourens has been in great form, and I think if you look at the whole Free State pack probably quite a lot of those guys will be impact players coming off the bench and I just felt in the end that they are a good combination,” he said.
Two other Cheetahs players to get their first sniff of the Green and Gold are Lappies Labuschagne and Willie le Roux, whose Super Rugby form was simply too good for Meyer to ignore.
Meyer said that Le Roux could give the Boks the kind of creativity that they have missed in the past, while his ability to play at fullback also counted in his favour.
“I had a great chat with Willie on the camp, I think he brings the x-factor that we probably need at times.
“We want to improve our backline play and score more tries and he has been awesome this year so it is well-deserved,” said Meyer.
The Bok boss added that the selection of Labuschagne was due recognition for his consistent form.
“Lappies has really played well the whole year and I want to prove to the players that I am loyal to performance, I don’t have favourites although the public probably thinks so,” he said.
Meyer explained that while he will probably not rush any of the new players into the starting line-up, he is keen to see what they can do when introduced from the bench.
“A lot of these youngsters will be great players in the future so I definitely want to give one or two of them chances from the bench and see how they perform at the highest level,” he said.
By Michael de Vries