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Meyer: World Cup spots up for grabs


Heyneke Meyer has made five changes for the Test against Wales

Heyneke Meyer has made five changes for the Test against Wales

Heyneke Meyer has made five changes for the Test against Wales

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer has challenged his players to prove their World Cup worth after being forced into changes for their final game of the year in Wales.

Meyer has had to select a new back three, with JP Pietersen, Bryan Habana and Johan Goosen all recalled for club duty and unavailable for Saturday's Millennium Stadium Test which falls outside the International Rugby window.

Full-back Willie le Roux and wings Cornal Hendricks and Lwazi Mvovo come into a back division which, apart from the 105-times capped skipper Jean de Villiers in the centre, does not boast anyone with more than 40 caps.

Hooker Bismarck du Plessis and prop Tendai Mtawarira are also recalled to provide vital experience to a Springboks side which Meyer admits has plenty to play for in Cardiff.

"The way we see it is that a lot of these guys are right on the edge of World Cup selection," said Meyer, whose side have made five changes from the team which won 22-6 in Italy last weekend.

"We didn't plan for all the injuries this year and a lot of guys are not available.

"But there's not a lot of difference between the top guys as suddenly we have three quality players in each position and that's what we aim for the year before the World Cup.

"This Test is an opportunity for a lot of these youngsters and ones on the edge to show what they can do and for the experienced players to step up.

"I know it's going to be a tough game, but I've got confidence in these guys to show what they can do."

South Africa have had a mixed autumn programme in the northern hemisphere, losing 29-15 to Ireland before bouncing back with a 31-28 victory over England at Twickenham.

That result extended South Africa's record against England to 11 victories in 12 Tests, a run interrupted only by a 14-14 draw in 2012, but Meyer said the Springboks fell short of their high standards in Padova last week when their line-out uncharacteristically stuttered and they were not as clinical as usual in attack.

"We wanted to keep some continuity because it's been difficult to do that all year," Meyer said.

"This year we've only had three guys involved in all the games, last year it was 10.

"But this team is a great testament to our depth and I believe this is a great side.

"There're a lot of youngsters there who have a chance to play and they have proved themselves.

"They have been waiting for a chance and this is a great game to see if they can move up to the next level."

South Africa have lost only once to Wales in their history and have won all 16 fixtures since that solitary setback at the Millennium Stadium in 1999.

But that psychological hold was almost broken in Nelspruit last summer when Wales led 30-17 with seven minutes remaining only for South Africa to snatch victory with a penalty try in the final seconds.

That disappointing finish has been a familiar tale for Wales against southern hemisphere opposition, with Australia and New Zealand also closing out wins in Cardiff this autumn after finding themselves trailing deep into the final quarter.

"In a sense I feel for them," Meyer said. "They've had a great season so far and when they played against us it was probably the two toughest games we've had all year, including those we had in the Championship.

"Those games could have gone either way and it was the same when they played New Zealand and Australia.

"I don't know why they seem to lose in the last 10 minutes, but I truly believe they are still a quality side.

"Every time we've played against Wales it's been very close and every single away game is even more tough."

Meyer wants to adopt an attacking approach at the Millennium Stadium, despite being without the likes of Habana and Pietersen, but admits his side must win the physical confrontation first.

"Our discipline has to be 100 per cent because I believe it's going to be an arm wrestle," Meyer said.

"We want to open up the game and play some attractive rugby in our last game (of 2014), but it always starts up front and Wales have got a very good forward pack.

"Their defence is up there with the best in world and, if they get quick ball on the front foot, they have got one of the best back-lines.

"They are all big, fast and strong, so if they get quality ball they are a very dangerous side."