Heyneke Meyer makes five changes for England clash

South Africa coach turns to experience for trip to Twickenham

Schalk Burger returns to  South Africa’s starting line-up for Saturday’s Test against England at Twickenham. Photograph: Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images.

Schalk Burger returns to South Africa’s starting line-up for Saturday’s Test against England at Twickenham. Photograph: Steve Haag/Gallo Images/Getty Images.

 

It is the question faced by every coach of every team ahead of this series of phoney war clashes a year out from next year’s Rugby World Cup. Are you planning for the here and now or for 12 months hence?

The South Africa coach, Heyneke Meyer, still smarting from Saturday’s 29-15 defeat in Dublin that checked the upward trajectory of his exciting side, gave the only sensible answer: both.

Must-win

England

“We only had this game in consideration. It is always a tough game and I felt we would put more experienced players in this game. I truly believe what happens now does not have a big influence on the World Cup. In a sense it is almost better if you lose as your guys know they will then have to step up.”

Meyer has opted for experience, with JP Pietersen, Adriaan Strauss and Schalk Burger (combined caps: 155) among those to return. Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie come in at half back, the latter replacing the exciting but callow Handrè Pollard at outhalf.

Meyer was quick to insist that the changes had been made not in direct response to the shock to the system in Dublin, but driven by his search for the perfect blend for the Rugby World Cup.

Emphasising the strength in depth outside the squad, he said every member of his side was playing for his Test future. By the end of the tour, the coach will know perhaps 80 per cent of the names that will return to England next autumn.

Bounce back

“We need to upskill our players in South Africa and we need to make a huge step up before the World Cup and train 90 per cent of the time with a wet ball and in wet conditions. We don’t face it too often in South Africa.” Guardian Service

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