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Meyer to turn to his old guard?

One of the biggest issues for the Springboks this year has been leadership, with a different captain in each match of their winless Rugby Championship campaign.

 

Although Jean de Villiers was back at the helm against Argentina in Durban, he was not able to inspire his charges to lift themselves in a worryingly flat performance and struggled to manage matters with referee Romain Poite.

 

De Villiers' fractured jaw means that at best he will be back for the Springboks' first match of the World Cup, which raises questions about whether another comeback will be a boost for the team or a distraction in the build-up to the World Cup.

 

The experienced centre has endured his fair share of World Cup heartache in the past, missing out in 2003 and 2007 due to injury, but he and Meyer will have to look beyond the emotions and ask some hard questions about what is best for the team in the next few weeks.

 

With just one match to play before the World Cup Meyer has one more chance to assess his options, but with five defeats from their last seven games he is also in desperate need of a win in Buenos Aires to give them at least some momentum before they leave for England next month.

 

This means that if they are passed fit this week, Meyer is likely to turn to Matfield and Du Preez, who were his two on-field generals for so long at the Bulls.

 

Matfield has only played 17 minutes of Test rugby this year, having hobbled off against the Wallabies in Brisbane, while Du Preez has hardly played any rugby at all this year.

 

If they do not play at all before the World Cup it would be hard to justify their selection, especially given the widespread concern about relying on players of their age.

 

Beyond De Villiers, Matfield and Du Preez the most obvious candidates for the Springbok captaincy are Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen and Bismarck du Plessis who have one Test as captain between them.

 

There will be changes to the team this week, with Willem Alberts set to feature at blindside flank in place of the injured Marcell Coetzee and Pat Lambie likely to slot in at fullback with Willie le Roux also sidelined.

 

However, the key changes will be the leadership of the team which is something that has been seriously lacking in the last few weeks, and Meyer will surely turn to his old guard to pull the team together and give them some much-needed impetus heading into the World Cup.

 

By Michael de Vries, in Durban

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