Meyer relying on ‘Springcrocks’ for Rugby World Cup

South Africa’s head coach Heyneke Meyer is so obsessed with experience for
the upcoming World Cup that he has included a number of players who have next
to no game time this year.

Meyer’s biggest gamble is scrum-half Fourie du Preez who has not featured for
the Springboks since last year and has not played any rugby for seven months.

Du Preez has not featured in a Test since being injured against Scotland in
the middle of last year but is a survivor of the 2007 World Cup-winning team
and has been included on reputation and not his recent experience.

The last competitive match for the 33-year-old was with his Japanese club in
February and a proposed comeback during the 2015 Rugby Championship failed to
materialise because of a training ground knee injury.

Du Preez retired after the 2011 Rugby World Cup but his former coach with the
Bulls Meyer convinced him to come out of retirement in 2013 and he admits that
having not played in a while it will take time to regain Test-level sharpness.

“Parts of my game will not be ready,” conceded Du Preez.

“I will have to find them during the World Cup. I do not have a choice.”

“I will give my best for the Springboks and if that is not enough, so
be it. I put a lot of pressure on myself and it is a good challenge.”

Springbok team captain Jean de Villiers is another player who has played almost
no rugby this year while he was recovering from an injury sustained last year.

The Springboks squad has suffered a glut of injuries during the build-up to
the global rugby showpiece in England.

Du Preez, skipper and centre Jean de Villiers and No. 8 Duane Vermeulen are
the most notable ‘crocks’, but several other likely first choices will fly to
England this weekend being distinctly rusty.

De Villiers has been particularly unlucky as he broke his jaw against Argentina
last month just weeks after completing a miraculous recovery from a career-threatening
knee injury.

Columnist and former Springboks official Mark Keohane believes coach Heyneke
Meyer is taking a huge gamble.

“It is loyalty at its most extreme and the legacy of the coach will be
determined by the battered warriors he has given free World Cup passes.

“He will be remembered for making the bravest call, or his tenure will
be defined by an act of lunacy in picking so many crocked players.”

Meyer says all 31 players should be available for the Pool B opener against
Japan on September 19 in Brighton.

But reports suggest De Villiers, capped 107 times, could miss several games
in a pool that also includes Samoa, Scotland and the United States.

Reigning South African Rugby Player of the Year Vermeulen, who epitomises the
physicality of the South African pack, is recovering from neck surgery and last
played in May.

But Meyer is prepared to gamble as the Springboks seek a record third world
title.

“You need experienced players because they know how to handle pressure,”
explains the 47-year-old whose four-year contract expires after the tournament.

“When the knockout stages come, the pressure will really be on. Guys with
cool heads, who will not concede stupid penalties, are going to be needed.”

Meyer selected two survivors — lock Victor Matfield and loose forward Schalk
Burger — of the 2003 squad that made a timid quarter-finals exit to arch rivals
New Zealand.

The pair plus wingers JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana, De Villiers, Du Preez,
fellow scrum-half Ruan Pienaar, hooker Bismarck du Plessis and prop Jannie du
Plessis were part of the triumphant 2007 squad.

Add six 2011 survivors, fullback Zane Kirchner, fly-halves Patrick Lambie and
Morne Steyn, prop Tendai Mtawarira and loose forwards Willem Alberts and Francois
Louw, and ther

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