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Super Bok trials coming up

The next six weeks of Super Rugby should be particularly intriguing after having had a look at Heyneke Meyer's opening hand against England.

The new Bok mentor made a few bold selections when he assembled a team that was set up to overpower England with little preparation time, and they churned out a series victory through some patchy performances which showed both immense potential and a few vulnerabilities.

Although they were devastating at times against England, the Boks lacked the consistency to put their determined opposition away comprehensively, and Meyer now has six weeks to consider how the gameplan and selection policy should differ for the upcoming Rugby Championship which will provide a much sterner test of his team's credentials.

The Bok coach has made it clear that he wants to pick the best team to take on the specific opposition that they are faced with, and after laying a 'solid foundation' against England it will be instructive to see if his selections and approach change at all when considering the threats of Australia and New Zealand.

The Springboks were derailed by a dogged defensive performance in Port Elizabeth, as England refused them any momentum in the collisions, and the major challenge will be to show that they can adapt to a similar challenge in the future, as the Wallabies and All Blacks will surely try to deny them gainline dominance in the same way.

Whether Meyer decides that he needs to tweak the gameplan, or not, it should be fascinating watching individual players in the next few weeks of Super Rugby, as there will be many who feel they have something to prove.

The Cheetahs may be out of the running for a play-off place, but Heinrich Brüssow has three matches to show Meyer that the Boks do need a specialist openside flank to round off the loose trio, whilst there are a host of other players that were overlooked for the three Tests against England who will want to show that they deserve a spot in the squad.

The likes of Chiliboy Ralepelle, Siya Kolisi, Peter Grant, Juan de Jongh and Lwazi Mvovo will be intent on showing that they can be valuable assets in a Green and Gold jersey this year, and their form will be watched with interest.

In addition to the list of outsiders seeking to break in, there will be a few incumbents, such as the Bulls halfback pairing of Francois Hougaard and Morné Steyn, who will be desperate to rediscover the form and consistency that got them the nod from Meyer in the first place.

On top of these considerations, the injury toll will also be a key concern for Meyer as he waits anxiously to see which players will be available to take on the other southern hemisphere giants.

There will be a few players returning from short-term injuries like Willem Alberts, Andries Bekker, Zane Kirchner and Pat Lambie, all of whom will be intent on proving their fitness in the coming weeks, and another important factor will be how Meyer integrates those who will be available after Super Rugby following lengthy spells on the sidelines.

Players like Schalk Burger, Duane Vermeulen and Johan Goosen are all expected to be fit again at some stage during the Rugby Championship, but can they be expected to slot right in at the highest level?

All of this makes the next few weeks vital, as the players will want to force Meyer's hand through their form, and the coach has some important decisions to make regarding the style of rugby his team should play in the Rugby Championship.

Meyer's reaction to the draw in Port Elizabeth was that it was "unacceptable" and that the Boks need to "catch up" with their rivals on the international stage, so it will be revealing to see how he reacts, if at all, in terms of selection.

The Bok coach is a big believer in stability and structure, so he is unlikely to make drastic changes to his squad, but there will certainly be reason for every Bok contender to hit form at the end of the Super Rugby season, starting this weekend with the local derbies in Cape Town and Pretoria.

By Michael de Vries


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