Does Meyer fit the bill?

Before asking if Heyneke Meyer is the right man for the job, it seems apt to first define the job, something Tank Lanning has duly done in his Sport24 column this week.

Tank Lanning

What do we want from a Springbok coach?

Or should it be what do we want from a Springbok coach right now? A job spec is an evolving thing. In fact, actual jobs are evolving things if you believe the futurists. Along with any sort of coding knowledge, online profile management is said to be a biggie in the not so distant future. This while the postal service and bricks and mortar retailing are unlikely to offer you much career stability.

So before asking if Heyneke Meyer is the right man for the job, it seems apt to first define the job as it stands right now.

Without getting into the finer detail, these would be my requirements of a Springbok coach set to take control of the team from January 2016:

  • Evolve the South African game plan from one that relies solely on brute strength up front and astute kicking, to one that includes playing the situation using a plethora of attacking skills;
  • Play a brand of rugby that not only excites both the players and fans, but makes us all proud to be supporters of the Springbok brand;
  • Move away from relying solely on a playbook, to an environment that empowers the players to play what is in front of them using their natural talent learned skillset;
  • As such, condition and upskill the players accordingly;
  • Focus not on immediate results, and let not the 2019 Rugby World Cup define you. Instead focus on a long term global ranking goal as a performance KPI;
  • Build a large base of players with an open ranking in each position from which to call from. Do this by playing experimental sides in less important games;
  • Be brave with your selections, moving away from the notion of not giving away “Free caps” to one that broadens the player base that can play at the highest level;
  • Know that racial window dressing will not be tolerated. Instead, as part of the new and braver selection policy, select players of colour on merit and give them time to settle;
  • Distance yourself from both the game and the team so as to apply yourself as objectively as possible;
  • Be pragmatic – Knowing that the buck stops with you, take ownership of final selection, but base that on input from your various trusted sources;
  • Define and implement a policy with regard to the selection of overseas based players;
  • Take key learnings from Argentina (general playing style via Graham Henry) and Australia (the scrum via Mario Ledesma), and bring in foreign skills where we need them;
  • Facilitated by SARU, take ownership of the relationship with the Super Rugby coaches, with a view to developing a more evolved South African brand of rugby;
  • Install a culture that speaks to rugby’s traditions – The game was fostered on a spirit of fraternity and shared experience and to not observe that is to disrespect a core tenet of the game. The third half, as the French call it, has always been rugby’s greatest point of difference.

Could you see Heyneke Meyer fulfilling such a role?

Just based on the side he has selected for Friday night’s game against Argentina, without doubt the most arcane game on the rugby calendar, the answer has to be no.

This Bok team saddens me, and confirms all that is wrong with our game at the moment. It speaks to a mindset of being scared to fail, rather than experimenting in order to be great.

And as per former Bok lock Flip van der Merwe’s Tweet, it is an “Ungrateful team selection towards the rest of the 31-man squad who worked just as hard (over) the last 4 years”.

The time for change has come.


  1. good day Tank

    Since we are entering a new era again, what will the springbok team(23) be that you would like to see if we had a game in November? assuming everyone is fit and ready. Jaco kriel in schalks place? frans in for jannie but will he stay on the bench if you think about 2019? is beast our best? scrumhalf?

    I think it will be a good read to hear you thoughts.


    (Rugby lover and ultimate springbok supporter)

  2. I can no longer give Meyer the benefit of the doubt, This useless team selection is the last straw. I will stop short of calling him a racist but I think this team for Friday confirms that he must go. I agree with Tank. We can’t win using ‘stampkar’ rugby anymore and need to look at the approach of successful sides like the Lions who play open, attractive and successful rugby. There is no place to continue Meyer’s model of one-dimensional rugby as we go forward. (Now all we need to so in convince W.P. to make Eddie Jones available to the Boks)

  3. Thing is. When the pressure came on Heyneke Meyer folded. The loss to Japan led to an overreaction on his part. Back to “basics” which doesn’t involve much passing the ball. If he manages to hang on he will fold again when under pressure.

    I read that Heyneke says that he wants to be part of the solution of the Springboks, without realizing that he IS the problem.

    Do he handle victory and defeat the same? If not, why should we keep him around? If your child bursts out crying every time s/he loses and struts around like a peacock when they win you haven’t taught them very well. It is a game. Sometimes we’ll win, sometimes we’ll lose. HOW we play the game and what we do when we have the ball, how creative we are, how we treasure possession is more important than winning or losing. Yes, it is. If you play attractive running rugby you will win. Not always. But often.

  4. i think world rugby has come full circle. Rugby was invented because some boy started running with the ball instead of kicking it. More and more teams are adopting this apporach, and apart from NZ it is supprisingly the minnows who in my opinion is leading the way, hence the reason they have closed the gap in this WC.

    Coming from a somewhat biased Lions supporter, SA rugby can certainly learn form Ackerman and the union as a whole, on how to play running games, build a team, develop young talent and players of colour. But please leave Ackeman just where he is.

    The courage and commitment shown by the Springbok rugby players in losing narrowly to the All Blacks in the semi-final of the World Cup should not detract from the fact that Heyneke Meyer simply cannot be retained any longer as the Head Coach. He was appointed in 2012 with the express purpose of winning the World Cup and he has failed miserably, not only in the results he has achieved (or not achieved!) but in his handling of transformation and in the style of rugby he has forced the team to play. He must be held accountable and if reports are true that he has already been offered an extension on his contract, then disaster looms.
    Let’s look at the facts: he went to the World Cup after 4 years in charge and he still did not know which half-backs or fullback or lock or centre combination was his first choice. By contrast, Michael Cheika took over an Australian team in disarray and in less than a year he has taken them to the final of the World Cup. Meyer selected injured players who only recovered towards the end of the tournament and stubbornly stuck with older players who were past their prime. He employed a “game plan” totally devoid of any attacking ideas which was doomed to fail.
    He, damningly, only selected Rudy Paige when there was an outcry over transformation and poor Reinach was sacrificed. This, more than anything else, demonstrated his lack of commitment and sincerity to transforming the composition of the side and the country simply cannot afford to have him at the helm any longer.
    He went into the World Cup on a losing streak having lost to Argentina, amongst others, for the first time in Springbok history. He apologised to the nation and then lost to Japan in the first match of the World Cup (also a first!). He again apologised to the nation. The team then went back to what he called “traditional Springbok rugby” which meant no risk, bashing into opponents, kicking for territory, playing for penalties rugby. They beat Samoa, Scotland (who fielded an under strength side) and the USA who also put their second stringers on the field. They then scraped past a Wales team decimated by injury via the only bit of skill in the whole 80 minutes as displayed by Vermeulen that led to the du Preez try. They then lost to the All Blacks and only stayed in the game thanks to 6 penalties. Meyer apologised to the nation for the third time and blamed the rain. The apologies were now ringing somewhat hollow and one felt that if they were sincere, then perhaps he should do the honourable thing and resign from his post.
    It is time for a new dawn- one where all South Africans can be proud of the Springbok team and of the style of rugby that they play. It is time for a coach who does not carry any baggage from the past and who is prepared to face the realities of coaching the national side. It is time to say goodbye and thank you to many of the current team and to select players who represent the new, exciting face of South African rugby. Many of them were on display in the recent Currie Cup competition. If rugby is to survive and flourish, then it must jettison those who cling to the privilege and power of the past. Why? Because, quite simply, it is the right thing to do.

  6. We have to be realistic how many foreign coaches want to coach the Springboks after the government got involved when we lost to Japan. Political interference might restrict the Springboks of getting the coaches we need to turn things around.

  7. Don’t totally agree. If people pay attention, which we don’t as bok fans after any defeat, they will notice that the last 5 games between Boks and All Blacks were all very close affairs, some can argue boks were better in all those games. They are nipping at the heals of this excellent All Blacks team that took 10 years to build. Hope SARU sees the light and stays the course. Heyneke made some mistake in his selection, such as Morne Steyn or Kichner for this squad but for most part got it right. He also needs to dump the old guard and build up his new guard further… world cup can be ours. Plus this continues rant that we need to revamp the whole thing is also wrong. We have always played off loads, expansive rugby as boks, watch the 1980 and 1981, watch before that. We innovate the game, the all blacks learn from. In 2008 they lost 3 in a row, and then changed, and started kicking like we were. And now you see how unbeatable they are behind the kicking game. No, we need to stay the course, look what we have, and yes tweek it here and there. We have it all. The real problem is all this dissension when we really should do what Frik Du Preez says, play for each other and play for the jersey. As fans, we should do the same and encourage them to continue to spread the ball.

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