THE injury that has ruled Pierre Spies out of The Rugby Championship has presented Sharks No 8 Keegan Daniel an opportunity to play for a permanent place in the Springbok team.
Daniel has been named at No 8 for Saturday’s opening Championship match against Argentina at Newlands on Saturday as one of five changes to the side that drew with England in Port Elizabeth in the last test of that series at the end of June. Coach Heyneke Meyer said this was Daniels’ chance to prove he could play international rugby.
“It is a step up for Keegan but he has really been playing well and I am really looking forward to seeing what he can do at this level,” said Meyer.
“There are now six loose-forwards not available, so it looks like that is the position that is taking over from fullback as the problematic one.
“There is only one forward who started in the World Cup in the team that plays on, so it is useful to have a pack that is dominated by Sharks players. The Sharks did really well towards the end of Super Rugby, and they have six players in the starting pack on Saturday.
“I did consider moving Willem Alberts to No 8 so that Jacques Potgieter could come in on the blindside flank. That would have given us more ball carriers.
However, Marcell Coetzee is not a specialist openside flanker and he carries the ball a lot, so I think we are covered when it comes to big ball carriers. I have been honest with Keegan and told him this is his chance to make it.”
Meyer said that Daniel would bring X-factor to the loose-trio.
“It’s going to be a hard, physical game on Saturday and we will be looking to Keegan to bring that little bit extra that can make a difference. He’s got to run from the back as the No 8 covers from the back, so it’s going to be a big challenge, but this is his chance to prove he can do it.
“He was good against a physical team like the Chiefs and also against the top defensive team, the Stormers.”
Daniel, who has played off the side of the scrum for the Sharks since Ryan Kankowski’s return, comes in for Spies and Alberts returns for Potgieter, with the one other change to the forward unit that last took the field coming at No 5 lock, where Meyer faced the difficult decision of leaving out Juandre Kruger for Andries Bekker.
Meyer’s respect for what Flip van der Merwe can do as a replacement sees Kruger drop right out of the match 22.
“It was a difficult one as Juandre is a good player and he did not let us down against England so he is a bit unlucky. But Andries is an extremely talented player and this game is at his home ground of Newlands so that swayed it,” said the coach.
As anticipated, Zane Kirchner returns for Gio Aplon at fullback, while Bryan Habana has been moved to the right wing from the left in place of the injured JP Pietersen.
Although the team list included Lwazi Mvovo on the right wing and Habana on the left, Meyer said that was a mistake.
“Bryan has the experience and we thought he would be able to make the switch to No 14 for this game. He is a world class player so he should be able to adapt,” said Meyer.
The best news for Bok fans at the back is the return of Frans Steyn after he took the Port Elizabeth test off to get married. This will be his 50th test match for the Springboks.
There are two newcomers to the match 22 in the form of reserve prop Pat Cilliers and Bulls centre/wing JJ Engelbrecht.
“It’s been a while in coming but they have both earned their places with good performances and I am looking forward to seeing what Pat can do when called upon to play against a great pack like the Pumas have.”
Springboks: Zane Kirchner, Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers (captain), Frans Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo, Morne Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Keegan Daniel, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Andries Bekker, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Pat Cilliers, Flip van der Merwe, Jacques Potgieter, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, JJ Engelbrecht.