By Nick Said
FOR both South Africa and Scotland, Saturday’s one-off test in Port Elizabeth is about seeing what lies beneath their usual pool of talent as they provide opportunities to younger players they hope will show international quality.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has drafted in IRB Junior Rugby Player of the Year Handre Pollard, a first cap for the highly-rated flyhalf who first caught the eye of the Bok coach aged 13.
After persuading Pollard to move north from Cape Town to Pretoria, Meyer plotted his path through the Bulls development system in the early days and now into the Bok jersey at the age of 20.
Meyer has been cautious this week not to say too much about the pivot, who will be in the glare of the media, but has made sure he has experience and familiar faces around him.
“Handre is a very talented player and has a big opportunity this week, but he’ll have (scrumhalf) Fourie du Preez’s experience next to him, while he’s played a lot with (Bulls centre) Jan Serfontein before,” Meyer told reporters.
Four more uncapped players sit on the bench for the Boks, Marcel van der Merwe(prop), Stephan Lewies (lock), Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje (loose forward) and Marnitz Boshoff (flyhalf).
Mohoje, whose nickname is South African slang for ‘Grandfather’ but is just 23 years old, was playing for his university team earlier this year before injuries at the Cheetahs Super Rugby side afforded him an opportunity he has grabbed, delighting Meyer, who likes his loose-forwards big and powerful.
“I’m really excited by Oupa,” Meyer said. “I’ve said to him with his first camp (in Durban) that he will play against Scotland. He is big and strong, and is excellent in the lineouts.
“I think he can be a great blindside flank – he’s more or less the same build as Willem (Alberts) and I want to see what he can do when he comes on.”
With 18 potential players on the injury-list and another seven having returned to their clubs in England and France, Meyer is getting to test his depth.
But there is certainly no feeling that he is scraping the barrel, rather, he hopes he is looking at the future of the South African game.
Scotland too have drafted in some 20-year-old talent in the form of Glasgow Warriors number eight Adam Ashe, who last week was on scholarship in Christchurch, New Zealand.
“He is a talented player and the reports of his form in New Zealand have been very positive,” coach Vern Cotter told www.scottishrugby.org. “He’s trained well with us and looked sharp. He is a specialist number eight and this is a golden opportunity for him.”
Cotter knows the magnitude of his side’s task, even if this is not a full-strength Bok team, and is eager to see how his team reacts to the challenge.
“I’ve always regarded playing South Africa in South Africa as the benchmark. It’s a massive challenge and it gives our boys an opportunity to lift their level,” he said.
“I’ve been pleased with the initiative that’s developing within the team. We’re starting to get good variety in our game. Now it’s a matter of seeing if we can do it against very good opposition.”
Scotland have named uncapped South Africa-born forward Tyrone Holmes on the bench.
Cotter’s side are coming off three consecutive victories in June over USA (24-6),Canada (19-17) and Argentina (21-19), while South Africa beat Wales twice.
South Africa: 15-Willie le Roux, 14-Cornal Hendricks, 13-JP Pietersen, 12-Jan Serfontein, 11-Lwazi Mvovo, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Fourie du Preez, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Schalk Burger, 6-Marcel Coetzee, 5-Victor Matfield (captain), 4-Lood de Jager, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Bismarck du Plessis, 1-Coenie Oosthuizen
Replacements: 16-Adriaan Strauss, 17-Trevor Nyakane, 18-Marcel van der Merwe, 19-Stephan Lewies, 20-Oupa Mohoje, 21-Francois Hougaard, 22-Marnitz Boshoff, 23-Zane Kirchner
Scotland: 15-Stuart Hogg, 14-Sean Maitland, 13-Nick De Luca, 12-Peter Horne, 11-Tommy Seymour, 10-Duncan Weir, 9-Henry Pyrgos, 8-Adam Ashe, 7-Chris Fusaro, 6-Robert Harley, 5-Grant Gilchrist (captain), 4-Tim Swinson, 3-Geoff Cross, 2-Ross Ford, 1-Alasdair Dickinson
Replacements: 16-Kevin Bryce, 17-Moray Low, 18-Euan Murray, 19-Jonny Gray, 20-Tyrone Holmes, 21-Grayson Hart, 22-Dougie Fife, 23-Peter Murchie
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand).