Mind over matter for Bok coach

So, technically their Test against South Africa in Soweto on Saturday will be irrelevant. But it is not, for ­various ­reasons.

Principally, of course, no match between the Springboks and the All Blacks is ever irrelevant. The visitors are defending a 15-match winning streak and victory in Orlando would keep them on course to beat the record they share with the Springboks of 17 in a row. They won at the same venue in 2010 and are capable of doing so again.

But the main reason why this match is not irrelevant rests closer to home. Last week in Pretoria, the Springboks turned the Australian Wallabies into a frightened and fragile rabble. If, as is highly likely, the Wallabies lose to Argentina this week in Rosario, it should be the end of the road for coach Robbie Deans.

At the other end of the scale sits Heyneke Meyer. While Deans was counting heads and checking that there are 22 fit men left in Australia to compete in a Test match, Meyer was happily selecting an unchanged team for Saturday. It was the first time it had happened during his tenure and it was surely no coincidence that an appearance in front of the media on Wednesday featured Meyer at his most relaxed.

It was, of course, the first time since taking over that he did not have to explain to a disappointed audience the reason for retaining his flyhalf. Rather, like the man who banged his head against a brick wall because it felt so good when he stopped, Meyer is now able to close the book on Morné Steyn.

That is not to say that this particular unchanged side is the finished article. It could be argued that Jaco Taute is fortunate to retain his place ahead of Juan de Jongh, and Francois Hougaard is starting to look a little out of place on the wing. JP Pietersen is back in training with the Sharks and Hougaard's immediate future may lie on the bench.

Then there is the vexed question of place kicking. Meyer said: "We are averaging 50% with kicks at goal this season, which means that we could have won seven out of eight Tests if we had kicked better."

It is for that very reason that Steyn was finally dropped and why the win against Australia, comfortable though it was, should have been so much greater. Johan Goosen picked up an ankle injury early on, which contributed to him missing his first two kicks at goal. Ruan Pienaar stepped into the breach and kicked well without ever suggesting that he will keep the job.

Meyer said that in the long run a little bit of failure would make Goosen a better player, which is a wise sentiment bestowed on a young man who has found the game way too easy thus far. It may explain why, once again, the coach dithered for far too long before bringing on Patrick Lambie and, finally, Elton Jantjies. Explain, but not condone. He must learn the error of his ways sooner rather than later.

Meyer is a more complex character than many believe. His rugby philosophy is built on trust, which is why his selections can seem so conservative. But he also recognises that the psyche grows scar tissue as time goes by and the best way to avoid bad memories is to pick players before they have had time to amass any.

Six of the current squad are 21 or younger. To put that in perspective, a photograph emerged this week of an 11-year-old Johan Goosen posing next to then recently capped Springbok Jean de Villiers. A decade on, the pair are playing in the same team, which must make De Villiers feel keenly each of his 31 years.

The odds should be stacked in South Africa's favour this week. New Zealand have secured the title and have travelled across the time zones to be here, arriving only on Tuesday morning. A normal team might be competitive for an hour and then succumb to the thin air of the Highveld, but the All Blacks are not a normal team, as they proved in 2010 at the same venue.

It was John Smit's 100th test and he was allowed to take his children on to the field to soak up the atmosphere of a record-breaking crowd. A total of 94 700 people came to party, but Richie McCaw's men sent the vast majority of them home disappointed. South Africa led 22-17 with five minutes to go, but lost 27-22 as the visitors grabbed two late tries.

Meyer has sensibly fought shy of the normal "backs to the wall, tackle, tackle, tackle" talk and admitted that "You don't win against the All Blacks by going out there and trying to keep the score low". With a little luck we might see a classic – and even if the Springboks lose, another glimpse of the bright future hinted at during the Loftus Test.


Hlophe complaint is an eerie echo

But the new complaint against the Western Cape judge president is also unprecedented

Mabuza contract grows by R10m

Eskom’s negotiators in a R100-million maintenance contract came back with a proposal to push up the costs

‘There were no marks on his neck’, Neil Aggett inquest...

The trade unionist’s partner at the time he was detained at John Vorster Square says she now believes his death was not a suicide

Study unpacks the ‘hidden racism’ at Stellenbosch

Students say they feel unseen and unheard at the university because of their skin colour

Press Releases

Boosting safety for cargo and drivers

The use of a telematics system for fleet vehicles has proved to be an important tool in helping to drive down costs and improve efficiency, says MiX Telematics Africa.

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Silencing the guns and firearms amnesty

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

Gender-based violence is an affront to our humanity

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

UK-Africa investment summit 2020: Think Africa Invest SA

MTN unveils TikTok bundles

Customised MTN TikTok data bundles are available to all prepaid customers on *136*2#.

Marketers need to reinvent themselves

Marketing is an exciting discipline, offering the perfect fit for individuals who are equally interested in business, human dynamics and strategic thinking. But the...

Upskill yourself to land your dream job in 2020

If you received admission to an IIE Higher Certificate qualification, once you have graduated, you can articulate to an IIE Diploma and then IIE Bachelor's degree at IIE Rosebank College.

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.