He is only going into his 6th test as Springbok coach having yet to taste defeat, but Heyneke Meyer already finds himself under enormous pressure in the lead up to the test against Australia this weekend.
Before Meyer selected his first official squad (for the England test series) I wrote that he will have to prepare himself for an onslaught from the South African rugby public and media, some of whom cannot wait for him to lose his first test in charge. There was nothing prophetic about my statement back then, it was simply an assessment of what was about to come judging on what happened to those who were retarded enough to accept the position of Springbok coach before him.
If there is one thing about rugby in this country that remains constant – it is that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
The draw against Argentina two weeks ago has left most South African rugby supporters fuming, with ex-coaches and experts also chipping in calling Meyer’s approach or style limited, to archaic. You see South Africans are not interested in excuses (or as I like to call it, context) – they want the Boks to show their brute strength they have been known to have for decades, have them tackle like the Stormers, display flair like the French, show the punch of the All Blacks and have the skill of the Aussies – all rolled into one – today! Anything short of that, is simply not good enough.
It is in his approach, or game plan that Meyer has received the most criticism (with player selections being a close second) – and it is here where another match this past weekend, and subsequent comments from the coach made for very interesting reflection.
WP hosted their arch-rivals the Blue Bulls in Cape Town on Saturday, and for a better word, gave them a snotklap. For a team (in the guise of the Stormers in Super Rugby) to not have scored one bonus point home victory in 2012, they crossed the line 5 times in 80 minutes in their 42-6 romp of the Blue Bulls.
Praise flowed in from every corner on social media, newspapers and websites, from ex-players to journalists liking the victory to the stuff WP was known for over two decades ago – running rugby.
Some even described the display as WP adapting a New Zealand style of rugby – which is of course the way rugby should be played according to most. Effectively, the 80 minute display at Newlands was adopted by all South Africans as the blue-print which should be presented to Heyneke Meyer on how the Boks should also play.
Sarcasm aside, what most neglected to mention or print, was the comments from WP’s coach, Allister Coetzee following the victory.
Asked about the massive, and sudden turn-around of his team, Coetzee surprisingly (to some) mentioned that their game plan, approach, strategy (whatever you want to call it) did not change at all – it is the type of rugby they have been trying to play the whole of 2012 (and prior) with the only difference on the night being a much better disciplined performance by his charges, accompanied by more clinical execution which resulted in the balance they have been striving for (between attack and defense) finally being achieved.
If we go a bit deeper and listen to Blue Bulls coach, Pine Pienaar, and his comments following the game you will even find further proof of WP not changing their defense orientated kicking game approach where he said that they (WP) simply beat them at their own game (they also planned to put the ball behind WP with kicks and put them under pressure from there).
Of course coaches should never be removed or elevated from criticism, but I could not ignore the irony of the fact that Allister Coetzee went from zero to hero in 80 minutes of rugby, without actually changing a thing…
Reminds me a bit of what Heyneke Meyer’s predecessor once said: “There’s little difference between winning and losing, except you feel better after winning.”
Indeed Peter, indeed.