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An argument for both Morne Steyn and young flyhalves

Written by Maria Delport (Letgo)

Posted in :Original Content, Springboks on 25 Nov 2013 at 13:35
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , ,

I am a huge Lambie fan, by now everyone knows this. I feel the kid (by now I should say man), has huge potential and talent for a young player. And I don’t think I am the only one that feels this way. Since coming onto the scene Lambie has shown something we haven’t seen in South African flyhalfs for a while, innovation and vision, but surprisingly I have to agree with most comments recently, that Morne should be the man to continue as the incumbent with Heyneke Meyer. If Morne is on form and not playing like he did last year, and Meyer is the Bok coach, he has to play. Our backs barely ever see the ball and our flyhalf doesn’t do much more than kick for touch and line up those all important kicks at goal. This is not meant to be a criticism, merely an observation.

We see Jean de Villiers manning the flyhalf channel on many occasions, usually to take the ball up into the defense – this is when our forwards don’t take the ball up. Morne has a crisp pass and when there is space he will quickly shift the ball to Jean, who by now is used to the ball simply coming to him. He is the guy creating for this backline and who would argue Jean’s inclusion in this Bok side until at least the end of the 2015 World Cup?

The argument is that with the way the Boks are playing right now, you have to pick the best goal kicker in the country and that player is Morne (although he’s not even in the country anymore). He does what is asked of him better than any flyhalf in South Africa and he probably does this better than any of them, because he has been doing it for 50 games, more than any other Bok flyhalf before him. There may be better more innovative flyhalfs than Morne, but not better options, at this stage, to slot into that flyhalf spot for the Boks.

With goal-kicking being the main requisite for a Bok flyhalf, at this stage, it is also understandable that Johan Goosen is getting a look into the Bok team this early. Before really having consistently showed anything more than promise (his progress being severely hampered by injuries), the one thing we know about him for sure, is that he is excellent at kicking those goal kicks. And the exciting thing is, we are also seeing some innovation from him. With his promise in that flyhalf channel and his immaculate kicking record, it is no wonder the Springbok selectors have been so fascinated with him, as goal-kicking is still the most important attribute they are looking for in a Bok flyhalf.

Once the Boks want to be a little more creative and start building around a flyhalf that does more than kick and shift the ball to his inside centre, then we will have a stronger argument for a young innovative flyhalf, even before considering goal-kicking – No, I’m not saying Lambie, maybe Goosen (I personally need to see more of him though).

I completely understand Heyneke Meyer’s approach though and to a certain extent agree with it. In my opinion he is following the same framework Jake White did. Get the team back to basics. Play the game we are comfortable with. Playing with our forwards and dominating set pieces we will end up winners on most days. Meyer is building a team. Despite some criticism, I feel that he has done a good job in bringing in young talents, as well as keeping (bringing back) the core of veterans that teams need to win World Cups. Willie, JJ, Jan, Etzebeth and even Malherbe and Pieter-Steph du Toit have been given a taste of test rugby and is part of Meyer’s plans for the Boks. And despite criticism, having Bakkies on the bench when Etzebeth got injured, was insurance that I was relieved we could fall back on. Bakkies Botha, Fourie de Preeze, Jacque Fourie and JP Pietersen may not be in the same form they were 2 years ago, but keeping them part of the squad and available as an option, is sound thinking from the coach.

It is however disappointing for me that Heyneke Meyer has refused to play any of South Africa’s younger and arguably more naturally talented flyhalfs, when he had the opportunity – against weaker opposition, for example. How can we develop these guys for the future if they are gathering splinters on the bench?

Case in point – Last year Morne should have been benched for the England incoming tours, he was out of form and couldn’t hit water from a boat. Lambie / Jantjies / Goosen (all of whom in Meyers squad) should have been used.

Heyneke Meyer has identified Morne Steyn as his number 1. Fair enough, he’s been doing it for 50 games and Meyer trusts him to do the job. So play him of the bench to regain his form and start him again for the that 2012 Rugby Championship, but if his poor form continues sub him early and play Lambie / Jantjies / Goosen. Start these young players against our weaker opposition and if Morne still struggles with form they should be ready to start in the bigger games, until Morne regains some confidence and form or the young player even proves himself! Why not? Would it be the worst thing?

The same goes for this year.

Why not give Lambie game time against Italy, Samoa, Scotland, Argentina – The Boks had that game won in 30 minutes, yet Meyer brought Lambie on as a fullback for 8m minutes? (I only use Lambie, because he was the only one of the young flyhalf options in Meyer’s squad).

The argument of whether Morne is better than Lambie / Jantjies / Goosen / Demitri, is moot, because that is Meyer’s choice and clearly he fits better into his plans, but surely with the young flyhalves in South Africa showing more promise than we have seen in years, one or two of them should be developed for the future, this could also surely be done without risking results. Not developing young player for the future in key positions is criminal, not just for after the incumbent retires, but what if your first choice gets injured or loses form at a critical stage?

We have to congratulate Heyneke Meyer on a great year though, no matter what you think of the guy, or what the argument is about the strength of the opposition this year, only two other Bok squads managed better years and that says something. It’s not easy to be a coach, let alone the Sprinbok coach and I think Meyer is doing a commendable job up to this point, but I would urge him to give younger players more opportunity, especially the young flyhalvess we currently have in this country. We still have 2 years to go until the world cup, these players will all be around 25 years old by then, surely there is an argument to develop one of them as a good back up to step in for your first choice. They may even prove to be better and could be just be the man needed to steer South Africa to a third World Cup crown?


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