Meyer’s eyes opened by near misses?


Guest writer Mike Bersiks asks whether Heyneke Meyer is learning anything from two close misses in our away leg in the antipodes.

I tend to be really disappointed in ”we should have won this one” Springbok performances. And the overseas matches against Australia and New Zealand definitely fall into this category. If the Bok forwards had played with the fire they showed against All Blacks in Perth the week before, I’m sure South Africa would have broken their winless streak against the Wallabies. Australia are always a side who grow an extra set of legs near the end of a match if they manage to stay within striking distance because of their good defence (and Berrick Barnes’ pinpoint goalkicking). Unlike the Springboks at the moment, the Wallabies remain a side who are capable of engineering tries when tackles are missed or defensive lines aren’t formed properly.

Unlike the flat performance in Perth, the Boks really seemed to be up for the match in Dunedin against the All Blacks. Doom-mongers were predicting a hiding at the new Forsyth Barr Stadium, but only a continued inability to finish off tryscoring opportunities and the continued poor form of Morne Steyn saw the All Blacks walk away with a win that wraps up the Rugby Championship. With the exception of the hapless Dean Greyling the Bok forwards were superb. With a true openside flank finally being selected in Francois Louw, and Duane Vermeulen continuing to look a good choice at number eight the loose trio looks balanced for the first time this season. And I must say that I was impressed by what could be Flip van der Merwe’s best performance in his 18 outings in a Bok jersey. Billed as the “new Bakkies” when he made his breakthrough Van der Merwe has never really convinced me, but he did a fine job in the absence of Eben Etsebeth.

Heyneke Meyer said before the three away games in the Rugby Championship that the pressure of playing overseas was what he was really going to use to evaluate his young squad, and see who should be included in the Bok group going forward. After the Argentina match in Mendoza and the disastrous experiment with the out-of-depth Jacques Potgieter, he seems to have woken up to two facts. One, is that he that fact that he can’t play the top teams in world rugby without a fetcher. He also seems to have realised that Ruan Pienaar is a far better scrumhalf than Francois Hougaard.

I would hope that he now concedes that his loyalty to the woefully out-of-form Morne Steyn has gone far enough. The Morne Steyn of 2009 would have ended up being the hero of Saturday’s Test – he would have ended up with a faultless goalkicking display and a ton of points due to an All Blacks side that was making plenty of mistakes. But surely there are too many good young number tens knocking on the door for Meyer to persist with the current version. Steyn previously justified his selection for the Springboks by being a points machine and if the points have dried up then Johan Goosen, Pat Lambie or Elton Jantjies are all better options at present. Goosen provides the opposition defensive line with far more problems for a number of reasons. He can get his backline away and provide the kind of inside-break danger that keeps defenders guessing as to whether he will try and make the break himself – a bit like what the All Blacks have got with Carter. If he sucks defenders on to him, then there’s also the force multiplier effect of leaving more holes for the likes of Frans Steyn to exploit. Wer saw that on Saturday when taking it up at pace and a good flat pace put Frans through and almost led to a try. If Goosen gets through on his own we’ve seen in Super Rugby that he’s got the pace and strength to leave the first line of defence behind and make real inroads. And he looks like he can kick some goals and give you nothing less in defence than what Steyn currently provides! After this Saturday it‘s a no-brainer to start Goosen in the home Rugby Championship matches. I wouldn’t discard Steyn, who after all is sitting second on the all-time Bok points list, completely but he needs to play himself back into contention at provincial or Super Rugby level.

I have to say though that if I was the coach I would also have erred on the side of caution and not started Goosen in the number ten jersey on Saturday. I would have been thinking less about the famous win against the All Blacks in Dunedin in 2008 than their dismal 28-0 loss in 1999. There, a promising young flyhalf was thrown to the wolves and it stayed with him for the rest of his career. But I would have put Goosen on at halftime after it became obvious that the game was slipping away with Steyn not coming to the party, and I wouldn’t have chosen Zane Kirchner as my fullback. I don’t believe Kirchner has what it takes to play top-level Test rugby as an outside back, and his shortcomings are contributing to the fact that the Boks are too predictable and easy to defend against. Don’t get me wrong – Kirchner has had the season of his life for the Bulls, and he’s a big unit, he’s got good hands and is solid when contesting for the high-ball. But a true international class outside back needs to have some sort of stepping ability and needs to have the sort of gas that gets him over the chalk when he gets a chance. If Kirchner was the All Black fullback would he have scored that try on Saturday or would he have been hauled in by Juandre Kruger? With Israel Dagg clear with twenty metres to go the Bok cover defence had no chance. Because of his lack of pace and ability to contest an up and under Kirchner is only playing to his strengths when he hoists everything into the air. But with Pat Lambie, Gio Aplon or perhaps Jaco Taute at the back the danger of the Boks running the ball back from broken play becomes far more pronounced and a lot harder to defend against.

The Springboks have only scored one try in each of the last three matches and if you’re only getting one five-pointer a match it’s going to be hard to win against teams like New Zealand, Australia or France regardless of how you kick at goal. The Rugby Championship is gone and Meyer needs to keep making those changes in order to get players with that force multiplier effect, that can make more tries more likely, into the green and gold 10 and 15 shirts. South Africa have proved that we have the forwards to win games, even without the superlative Bismarck du Plessis. I’ve got no problem with us mauling the opposition into submission as long as the Bok backs can come to the party and finish the job!

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  1. What we need to realize is that the coach has been tinkering and experimenting with the locks and flanks since the first game. Also in keeping with the correct approach to selections he has stuck with marginal performers to allow them to prove or disprove themselves worthy of continued selection.

    Morne Seyn has not been rested in a game since 2009. The guy has literally been played into the ground and being surprised at his lack of form is ridiculous. Our hysterics at his performing under par should be directed at his coaches… yes not just Meyer, but De Villiers, Pienaar and even Ludeke who have done the player a total disservice by literally trying to wreck his career instead of managing it. Properly managed Steyn WAS the SA answer to Dan Carter in 2009… now he is a skeleton of a shattered player.

    In 2005 after the Aussies hammered the Boks in the first Mandela Plate test, Jake White retruned and made wholesale chnages to the Boks which included a completely new 10/12/13 axis that replaced VDW, DEWB and MJ with Andre Pretorius, Jean De Villiers and Jacque Fourie… a combination that eventually was part of coming to within a whisker of winning the 2005 3N after a disastrous start to the season.

    Let us hope the national coach is similarly bold when the return leg of 3N kicks off.

  2. All that is going to happen is Meyer will see the light, change the game plan, drop the under performing players, is pick the right players, win a whole lot of games and be lauded as a coach with vision.
    Meanwhile it all actually goes against what he believes in.

  3. “I would have been thinking less about the famous win against the All Blacks in Dunedin in 2008 than their dismal 28-0 loss in 1999. There, a promising young flyhalf was thrown to the wolves and it stayed with him for the rest of his career.”

    And still we beat this tired old drum, meanwhile back in the real world players like Coetzee and Etzebeth have made the most of being thrown to the wolves as young players. Aaron Smith have been brilliant for the Blacks, but for some reason certain young players need to be protected for some reason?

    Gaffie was not up to it – fact. If he had not crumbled in that test, he would cracked at some later stage.

    Do not curtail all future young stars out of fear of doing a Gaffie. I am sure we would have won Saturday’s test had Goossen started. He seems to be made from much sterner stuff than the Gafster, who suddenly gets rolled out as an example in every article where Johan gets discussed.

  4. Reply to Craven @ 4:47 pm:

    His future was not curtailed at all.

    Both this week and last, he was eased into the match in a low pressure situation that would allow him to relax and show what he can do.

    He did very well and thus his career just got a big boost.

  5. Like the way young Lambie cracked under pressure. Not! Gaffie was fragile would have cracked anyway.

    Blah blah excuses cadre style loyalty crap.
    HM your game plan sucks. Your kick the ball way predictable outdated game plan is at fault. So when the backline finally gets the ball they fuck an overlap try scoring opportunities because they are not used having ball in hand.

    JDV must go. Morne must go. Kirchener must go. Dumbass I run over players like I was 15 FSteyn should got to FB. He is not performing as a 12. He had an overlap and took the ball to Dagg by running away from support and then getting possession turned over.

    Your excuses are starting to look lame and your walkie talkie thing shows you dont seem to have a grip on the game.

    Once again South Africa have great forwards and limited backline players.

  6. Reply to Boertjie @ 12:26 am:

    Ag kak man…

    He was excellent at Craven Week and in 1998 instrumental in Griquas’ outstanding run at CC level.

    EVERYONE, me included, was punting the 19 year old phenom from Kimberley as a Bok flyhalf for certain.

    Mallett wrecked his career by taking him from Griquas (he never even got a shot at SR) and throwing him to the wolves in a test match at Dunedin with a poor debutante scrumhalf…

    And as for Dan Carter… duh… he debuted in the 2003/4 season for the AB’s away in 12 position… he was similarly eased in.
    Some make it… Gaffie didn’t…

  7. Well written article. I particularly liked
    “The Springboks have only scored one try in each of the last three matches and if you’re only getting one five-pointer a match it’s going to be hard to win against teams like New Zealand, Australia or France regardless of how you kick at goal.”

    Good point, proved in the lost RWC2011 game v Aus.
    So maybe we should be praising Morne Steyn for all the games he had his kicking boots on and got the Boks home despite our inability to score tries against top sides?

    Considering the title of the article, does the Bok coaching staff ever consider the performance of SA S15 sides at the away venues they play at in Oz and NZ or is the step up to international level considered to be too big? Given the number of Bulls in the Bok side, Meyer only had to look at what happened in one S15 game – the Bulls v Highlanders game played earlier this year in the same stadium in Dunedin. His eyes would have been opened before the Boks match last weekend.

    In that S15 game, M. Steyn only managed 2 out of 5 penalty kicks and yes Dean Greyling even received a card in that game too. The Bulls persisted in handing over possession with a kick and chase tactic that didn’t work and yes …the Bulls lost. Maybe plan B last Saturday should have been to forego the kicks at poles once they weren’t going over and go for rolling mauls from lineouts instead? Or like some S15 teams, do we only go into games with one gameplan?

  8. Reply to DavidS @ 11:55 am: You miss the point. The 2 Bulls (maybe 3 if you include Zane) that are blamed by some for the loss last Saturday, were up to the same stuff in the earlier Bulls v Highlanders game in Dunners. Morne’s missed kicks, Greylings card and even the kick away possession, kick and rush stuff. Meyer is potentially a good coach, the Bulls potentially a good side but they both seem to obstinately stick to one game plan even when it is not working. Great coaches and great teams have the ability to learn from past mistakes and adapt.

  9. You seriously cannot judge the entire Bok performance on the failure of three players almost six months ago in the same town…

    Seriously that is grabbing at straws…

  10. Jorrie Muller was Straueli…

    And yes Jorrie was an outstanding member of the Jake White RWC 2003 U21 winning squad scoring in the final as well…. and similarly got pushed too fast…

    As a matter of corse is is coaching age level Lions at the moment …

    Last year the U19 and U21 Lions all contested the CC final….

  11. Jorrie Kruger played fullback for the Cheetahs, he was the brother of the Cheetah centre Chris Kruger. Jorrie was quite a handy fullback. Cant remember him making the Springbok team.

    Heyneke Meyer will learn from this game. I think the game plan was better and our forwards performed reasonably well.

    I don’t buy the excuse that Goosen was not ready. Meyer hoped that Morne would turn his game around, wich ultimately did not happen. This cost us the game. He is doing Morne no favours by playing him with the terrible form he is in.

    He should have had Lambie or Goosen on by the end of the first halve to salvage the game.

  12. Reply to DavidS @ 2:20 pm: Jorrie Muller is the Leopards assistant coach at the moment. He could take over from Leon Bossoff as head coach after Leon’s contract was not renewed.

    I think we should all accept that some players don’t have the mental toughness to be international rugby players. The first warning sign is normally players not willing to put their bodies on the line in defence, Jorrie, Gaffie and Earl Rose are all prime examples.

    I doubt Goosen will suffer the same fate.

    There is nothing wrong with pointing out that Heyneke might have made a mistake by keeping Morne on. I truly believe this was a mistake and it cost us the game.

  13. Reply to biltongbek @ 2:29 pm:


    9/10/13/15 need to change

    Given Brussouw’s performance this past weekend and the one before that the Bok staff is justified in leaving him out and sticking to F Louw.

    For the locks Juandre / Etzebeth and FR is the best we have available but not the best.

    On the bench I have no idea. Need punch and impact and we’re not providing that at the moment.


    9. Clueless
    10. Well Goosen has had some time, let him go at it
    12. Keep Frans Steyn
    13. Jaco Taute
    14 & 11 unchanged
    15. Lambie

    Forwards the mix is more or less okay. Add Bismarck to the mix and we’re probably best off as we can be for the moment.

  14. Reply to Vetgesmeerde Blits @ 2:42 pm:

    Ja he came in at the Lions Sevens in 2009 already and progressed from there. Was backline coach for Lions juniors last year.

    I have no issues acknowledging Morne was an error and the coach himself has even acknowledged it and even before the game said he was worried over the player… that was probably not the wisest thing to do… even with hindsight it was a stupid thing to do.

  15. Reply to DavidS @ 2:55 pm: I tohught Flip v d Merwe did a very good job on Saturday, I liked his physicality and would in fact prefer him with Juandre for the first 40 minutes, then unleash Etzebeth in the second half.

    If you have Goosen at 10 (I agree) then you need an experienced Scrum half, even though Ruan Pienaar was pedantic at times, you can’t go with inexperience at 9 and 10, Meyer will never do that.

    I agree get someone else in at 13, but I doubt Jd Villiers will be dropped.

  16. Reply to DavidS @ 2:55 pm:

    Why Taute at 13? Going on form for the Lions it should be Mapoe, shouldn’t it? I would love to see Taute return to fullback.

    WOuld JP not be available for the test against the Ausies? I would like to see him at 13 for the Boks, but we would probably leave him on the wing, as Jean is not getting dropped soon. So that moves Hougaard out, he might return to 9?

    I Heyneke decides to play Morne again, he has to play Pienaar at 9 and let him take all the kicks. Let Morne get on with playing 10.