SOUTH Africa coach Heyneke Meyer insists the sweeping changes he has made to his team for Saturday’s Test against England are not a reaction to last week’s defeat to Ireland.
Meyer has dropped five players and recalled the likes of World Cup winners JP Pietersen and Schalk Burger for the Test at Twickenham, England’s second of the autumn campaign. The Springboks, who ended New Zealand’s 22-match winning run last month, were beaten 29-15 by Ireland in Dublin, but Meyer is adamant that he was planning a reshuffle anyway.
“You are going to lose games, even if you’re South Africa,” he said. “Ireland was one of those strange games; we won everything except on the scoreboard. The result was a wake-up call for me as a coach and for the team as well.
“There’s no shame in losing, but I was ashamed by our performance. We have to learn from that. We can’t make the same mistakes again. The one thing we are not good at is our kicking game and the contestables. England and New Zealand are very good at that.
“We have been the best in the world at that, but as a nation we have fallen behind.”
England are expected to hand Bath’s Anthony Watson a debut against the Springboks after his club colleague Semesa Rokoduguni was ruled out with a hip problem. There are concerns over the fitness of Northampton flanker Tom Wood, with Wasps’ James Haskell ready to deputise, though centre Kyle Eastmond has recovered from a stomach bug. Head coach Stuart Lancaster is due to confirm his team this morning.
Meyer, meanwhile, has dismissed the significance of triumphing at Twickenham less than a year before it hosts the crucial games of the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
“I truly believe what happens now will not have a big influence on the World Cup,” he added. “In a sense it’s almost better if you lose as your guys will then know they will have to step it up.”