Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer returns to South Africa this morning and will face the press after a disappointing end to their World Cup campaign; my question to him would be “Why do you think you deserve to continue in your post, what progress has been made over the last four years?”
In my opinion, there has been no real progress. There is no meaningful silverware to show, the good results have been cancelled out by some truly awful results, a world ranking of three is nothing to shout about, and, as clearly shown in the dour win over Argentina in the third-place playoff, Meyer cannot even say the game plan has evolved under his watch. And he continues to cause outrage when it comes to transformation – his treatment of Rudi Paige, Lwazi Mvovo and Siya Kolisi showing that he just doesn’t get it when it comes to that vital issue.
Meyer is an honourable man, as passionate as anyone when it comes to Springbok rugby, and he says he wants to be part of the solution that will fix the problems. But in my eyes he is part of the problem; his emotional excesses and fear of losing rub off on the team. The Springboks have not shown the ability to adapt to what is happening on the field, they are too stuck in a rigid game plan.
Watching New Zealand deservedly win the World Cup final clearly showed the direction the Springboks should be going. The All Blacks are peerless when it comes to vision and adaptability on the rugby field and it was surely destiny that Dan Carter would be man of the match in winning the World Cup final.
Meyer seemed to be heading in the right direction in 2013 and 2014 when he tried a more up-tempo, ball-in-hand approach; two epic Tests against the All Blacks resulted and Ellis Park was sold out as she hosted two of the best games of rugby I have witnessed.
But the coach failed to build on those performances, losing his nerve in this World Cup year and retreating back into a conservative, unambitious game plan that was easy to counter. Losing to Japan was bad enough, but the Springboks had the added ignominy of being called “anti-rugby” and being as boring as Argentina were when they first joined the Rugby Championship in 2012.
The fact that his team struggled to beat an Argentina side missing nine first-choice players last weekend rams home that Meyer has not added anything to the Springboks. Replacing him at the helm of a team that clearly needs renewing, especially in terms of strategy, is the only sensible option because Meyer has shown that he cannot take the team forward.
On a positive note, a big high-five to the England Rugby Union for hosting a top-class World Cup. A pleasing feature of the tournament was the improvement shown by the minnows: apart from Japan’s incredible heroics, there were also no massive hidings as rugby showed it is a truly global game.
Even the referees, who are under the harshest lens, stepped up and, barring one or two mishaps, the officiating was of a high standard, helped by a greater reliance on the TMO.