Meyer has tried to be a man of all seasons in the way the Boks have approached their games over the last two years, but four defeats in a row, three of them on the fast fields of the Rugby Championship in 2015, have convinced Meyer that winning the World Cup could mean the future lies in going back to what has always worked for the Boks.
There are many who would say that Meyer admitting he cannot beat the All Blacks and the Wallabies at their high-paced game is an admission of defeat, and that the Boks just cannot cut it with the pace-setters, but there are plenty of other Bok supporters who will side with Meyer’s admission that he is done with entertainment and is now back in the business of winning matches, whatever it takes.
As Bulls coach, Meyer was hailed and vilified for being the architect of 10-man rugby, three Super Rugby titles notwithstanding, with Derick Hougaard and Morné Steyn kicking the Bulls into the right places of the field, as directed by Victor Matfield, and then forward pressure would provide the goal-kicking opportunities that won the Bulls their games.
Meyer, to his credit, has tried to grow the Boks’ game beyond that one-dimensional approach and has said that the game has evolved beyond the “strangulation” method the Boks efficiently implemented to win the 2007 World Cup.
“You have to be able to score tries,” Meyer said after his team lost to Argentina last weekend, for the first time.
“The game has moved on and we have tried to move with it, but we have also been rudely reminded that the basics have to come first, and if you get that right and the conditions are suitable, then you can move the ball.
“We are pleased that we know we can score thrilling tries if the opportunities are there to run the ball, but we have also learned that, first and foremost, we have to be tactically astute,” Meyer said.
To that end, Meyer has radically changed his long-planned selection strategy by bringing Patrick Lambie back at flyhalf, and if ever there was a player who has everything to gain tonight, it is the 24-year-old Durbanite.
Lambie ended the 2014 season as the Springbok flyhalf incumbent after taking over from Handré Pollard following the tour-opening loss to Ireland in Dublin, where Pollard had struggled.
Lambie began 2015 as Meyer’s first-choice at No10, only for him to miss almost all of the Super Rugby campaign for the Sharks because of a neck injury.
Pollard, almost by default – he had an erratic run with the Bulls – became Meyer’s No1 when the Test season began but when he was booed off the field in Durban last week after a shocker, Meyer has undergone a paradigm shift in his thinking.
Lambie, who had clearly been earmarked as a utility back who could cover fullback and flyhalf, and possibly No12, has suddenly been thrust back to flyhalf.
And with Meyer now wanting a flyhalf who can both run the ball and also play the territorial game, conditions dependant, Lambie has the chance to direct the Boks to a pressure-relieving win that will almost certainly have him leap-frogging Pollard as the first-choice flyhalf.
Outside Lambie, the deservedly-hyped midfield of Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel has been restored and that axis with Lambie has exciting prospects.
We are still told by Meyer that whoever is at No10, the No9 berth is booked by Fourie du Preez, a veteran of indisputable pedigree, and this is possibly not a bad thing if Du Preez can put four games in a row together in the pool games ahead of the quarter-finals given the measured but uninspiring displays of Ruan Pienaar.
And Zane Kirchner at fullback? Not many knew that the Nik-Nak man was still playing rugby, never mind in the Springbok squad.
As Chuck Berry once sang, certainly without Springbok rugby on his mind but with his lyrics applicable: “It goes to show you never can tell.”
Argentina: 15-Joaquín Tuculet, 14-Santiago Cordero, 13-Matías Moroni, 12-Juan Martín Hernández, 11-Juan Imhoff, 10-Nicolás Sánchez, 9-Martín Landajo, 8-Juan Manuel Legiuzamón, 7-Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe, 6-Tomás Lezana, 5-Tomás Lavanini, 4-Benjamin Macome, 3-Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2-Agustín Creevy (capt), 1 Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: 16-Julián Montoya, 17-Lucas Noguera, 18-Juan Pablo Orlandi, 19-Matias Alemanno, 20-Pablo Matera, 21-Tomás Cubelli, 22-Juan Pablo Socino, 23-Lucas González Amorosino
SOUTH AFRICA: 15-Zane Kirchner, 14-Lwazi Mvovo, 13-Jesse Kriel, 12-Damian de Allende, 11-Bryan Habana, 10-Pat Lambie 9-Ruan Pienaar, 8-Schalk Burger, 7-Willem Alberts, 6-Heinrich Brüssow, 5-Victor Matfield (capt), 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Marcel van der Merwe, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Trevor Nyakane
Replacements: 16-Schalk Brits, 17-Beast Mtawarira, 18-Frans Malherbe, 19-Flip van der Merwe, 20-Pieter-Steph du Toit, 21-Cobus Reinach, 22-Handré Pollard, 23-Jan Serfontein
Original source: Lambie’s chance to shine