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Ken Borland

Finding common ground is Meyer’s priority

Posted on January 30, 2012 by Ken

Finding common ground with the Super Rugby franchises and northern hemisphere clubs who have potential Springboks will be Heyneke Meyer’s priority, the new South Africa coach said on Monday.

Meyer was appointed on Friday as former coach Peter de Villiers’ successor and will be tasked with rebuilding a Springbok team that has lost stalwarts in captain John Smit and vice-captain Victor Matfield, while the international futures of stars such as Fourie du Preez, Jaque Fourie, Danie Rossouw, Gurthro Steenkamp and Francois Steyn are in doubt because they are based overseas.

This year’s SuperRugby competition runs from February through to August, with Meyer’s first assignment sandwiched in the middle as England visit South Africa for three tests in June.

“SuperRugby is going to put pressure on. All of the franchises want to win, I’m realistic enough to know that, so it’s a big challenge. But it’s also the first year that there are three tests in the middle of the competition and there is no successful method to go back and see what works.

“It’s a fresh challenge and I would like to have a national planning session. I’m on good terms with most of the franchise coaches and I want to see if we can come to a win/win situation, especially in terms of conditioning, which will require a big step up,” Meyer told reporters in Pretoria on Monday.

“I also want to see if it’s possible for me to go overseas and speak to the players there. I’ve spoken to a lot of agents to see who’s available and who’s not available, but we have some quality players overseas.

“The conditioning of the players in the northern hemisphere is one of my concerns. The Heineken Cup is a very tough competition and a lot of the players are conditioned very well, but they peak at different times and I have a few ideas I need to discuss with them and the clubs, again to see if we can come to a win/win situation.”

Meyer stressed that it was also up to the players to show mental toughness in the face of playing schedules that have become more and more demanding.

“We need to rotate players better at SuperRugby level, but I’m also a big believer in mental toughness and the more the players hear and read about burnout, the more they believe it. We can’t make excuses about conditioning, we need to plan and manage our players better,” Meyer said.

The former Bulls director of rugby said one of his other immediate tasks will be to study current rugby trends and make sure the Springboks adapt to the changes in the game.

“I’ve studied a lot of rugby lately and the game changes every six months with the new law interpretations. If you’re not adapting to those changes, you’re going to be left behind.

“The one definite thing that has to change is our conditioning. The guys are playing much more rugby and the game is much quicker; most tests are lost in the last 10 minutes, so you need athletic players.

“It will be important for me to do a lot of research because the game has definitely changed. It’s imperative, though, that we still use our strengths to our advantage and the basics are always the same. We have our own style and we must stick to that.

“I would like to install a national style of play and defence, but I’m realistic enough to know that you can’t force it,” Meyer said.

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