BRISBANE — It is never a surprise when Springbok teams adopt a conservative approach and Heyneke Meyer’s selection for today’s rugby Test in Brisbane is a familiar reversion to type.
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The five changes from the side that struggled to subdue Argentina in Mendoza a fortnight ago are aimed at shoring up defensive frailties exposed that day.
Those who cherish the free spirit that is Willie le Roux will be hoping that his shift from fullback to right wing is not the first step in removing him from the starting side. Le Roux struggled under the high ball against the Pumas but was not alone in that.
Meyer has reverted to the safer but more prosaic Zane Kirchner at 15, expecting a fusillade from Wallaby halfbacks Will Genia and Quade Cooper. Le Roux takes the place of Bjorn Basson, who drops out of the squad altogether.
When Basson first moved from the Griquas to the Bulls three seasons ago, he seemed set for a long run in the national side but a lack of discipline in defensive situations has found him out. Going forward, Basson has few peers, leaping like a salmon to collect well-placed kicks but he has feet of clay when receiving similar kicks inside his own 22.
That, coupled with a propensity to step out of alignment in the search for interceptions, has persuaded Meyer to drop him. Basson now finds himself at a crossroads and we will learn much about his character because, for the first time in his life, it has been borne in upon him that his extraordinary attacking ability is not enough.
Basson is the victim of a strong period in Springbok history, but if there is one area of concern for the future, it is at lock.
Meyer has been playing musical chairs with Juandré Kruger and Flip van der Merwe and this time it is the latter’s turn to start alongside Eben Etzebeth.
The bald fact of the matter is that neither is good enough to be a long-term foil for Etzebeth.