Meyer: Fourie factor can boost Boks
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer hopes veteran scrumhalf Fourie du Preez galvanises the squad in a similar way George Smith inspired the Brumbies this season.
Du Preez, who has played with Smith for Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath for the past two seasons, was a surprise inclusion in Meyer’s 30-man squad for the opening two rounds of the Rugby Championship.
The Springboks went into camp in Johannesburg on Monday ahead of their Rugby Championship opener against Argentina in Soweto next Saturday.
Training, however, was hampered significantly with a third of the squad absent due to overseas club commitments.
Explaining his selection of the World Cup winner, who will only be available for the three Tests in South Africa, Meyer said: "Fourie is a world-class player. He's been part of my plans right from the start. Unfortunately he wasn't available.
"I've had a lot of discussions with Fourie and he is still very keen to play for his country and I believe he is still one of the best scrumhalves in the world.
"With Francois Hougaard injured at this stage we are a little bit thin on scrumhalves, I also want to make sure that I take the best nines to the World Cup."
Meyer said he would use the next few weeks to assess Du Preez and the impact he has on the squad, with the hope that the 31-year-old would have a similar effect that Smith had on the Brumbies and Wallabies.
“If you look at a guy like George Smith, what he meant for the Brumbies? He plays for the same club as Fourie and is still playing great rugby and made a big difference,” said Meyer.
"Fourie is a great player who can dictate the game and I believe he is a great leader and I think he can add value.
“This is more a long-term vision and I want to see what Fourie can still add to the side and by next year he'll probably be available for all Tests.
"This gives me an opportunity to look at Fourie. He's available for five to six Tests and I don't want to get in to the situation before the World Cup and I don't know who are the best scrumhalves."
Meyer said he has been keeping a close eye on Du Preez and his form in Japan.
“My coaching staff and selectors have footage of all the games and we’ve watched him play in the Japanese league. I still think he is a quality player and a world-class player,” said Meyer.
“The one thing he can bring to the side is leadership. His team won their championship and wherever he goes, he is the type of player who can make a side win.”
Meyer insisted that the veteran would have to earn his place in the matchday 23.
“He needs to be picked on merit and show he is the best. He will get the opportunity to train with the squad now and we will see how he goes. If he is good enough he will be selected,” he said.
Meyer said he opted for continuity rather than blooding several new caps simply to stick to his selection policy to give preference to South African-based players.
"As a Springbok coach, you always want to pick your best side and I always want to look at our home-grown players first.
"But the main thing with picking this side was continuity, and you want to have some kind of continuity.
"If you have to pick eight or nine new players it is a huge challenge specifically when you are playing the best teams in the world.
"Argentina has been in camp for a month, so they will be a tough opener."
Meyer added that he’s confident that Coenie Oosthuizen will do a good job as Jannie du Plessis' back-up at tighthead and feels the Cheetahs loosehead is well-suited to the new scrum laws.