So now Heyneke Meyer is a racist… What? Did the old Blue Bulls bias criticism become boring for folks? Heyneke Meyer is many things, ignorant in his approach, management and loyalty to the known and conservative in his first season in charge perhaps, but a racist? Spare me.
Yesterday I shared some personal thoughts on a blog with regards to race and race relations in South Africa and South African rugby. It came from a very personal and important stage in my life. I am not going to bore you with this but the moral of the post was quite simply that race is an issue in South African rugby. Engrained beliefs still exist in the minds of the South African generation that experienced Apartheid and our change to a democratic society. I won’t make excuses for it and I am not going to pretend it does not exist. But to suggest that public figures in a position like a national coach makes conscious decisions or takes deliberate actions based on a person race or with racist motives is nothing short of absurd. Also, to think race is an issue isolated to our country is ridiculous – for me it’s positive that we at least deal with it head on as a nation and not sweep it under the carpet.
Let me state this as clearly as I possibly can; Heyneke Meyer makes rugby decisions when he selects a match-day 23 or a game strategy with the view on winning. Should he be more aware of his responsibilities as a Springbok coach on matters outside of the actual rugby sphere? Sure – but there SA Rugby could guide him. Criticise him all you want for his rugby decisions but please do not embarrass yourself by playing the race card when you run out of arguments for a sensible rugby debate.
As I continued to read through much of the rubbish posted on social media and certain blogs it also occurred to me that there is some sweet irony in all this.
Jake White, Peter de Villiers and now Heyneke Meyer have at some stage all been accused of stupidity, stubbornness, racism and having predictable, outdated game plans where all of them should have been fired long before their 4-year terms were up. Read the archives, it’s all there!
In April this year before Meyer selected his first test squad I wrote a column saying Heyneke will face his toughest test in his rugby career. I said he will need to guard against the perceptions of fans and the media and even though it is not the job of a rugby coach, he will need to build political and emotional bridges with fans and the media if he wants to avoid their wrath. I am not even calling it a prediction because for someone to predict something it had to be an unlikely scenario of what’s to come for it to hold value – I was stating something as fact.
There is no special talent needed for that. I simply took what happened over the previous 8 years since I started commentating on rugby and applied the formula to our current situation knowing it won’t fail – and it did not.
As pathetically predictable as that was, I must say I did enjoy the change in individuals defending the coach this time around many of who criticised the previous coaches on exactly the same issues.
On the positive side, it does seem that supporters are maturing a bit because this time around, more and more people are starting to ask the right questions or more specifically, identifying where the actual problem lies – our rugby structures.
Back to Heyneke, the only mistake he has made so far was to underestimate the environment he walked into. That he is a successful and gifted coach was never a doubt in my mind, but his inability to manage the external pressures effectively is what has allowed this pressure cooker to get to the brink of blowing its top.
Heyneke is known to take teams in heaps of trouble and turn them into champions, and as someone on Twitter mentioned, with a psych major behind his name he will come out of this mentally tougher and hopefully instil that mental toughness in our players too. He knows that for now results means everything, but if he does manage to stay his full 4-year term I have little doubt Meyer will turn one of our more exciting generation of young players into world beaters.
Let’s just hope he has enough balls to put up with the shit printed in the media.
Oh and for the record, I am a Heyneke groupie as Brendon correctly told me yesterday – and I am as proud to be a Heyneke groupie as I was being a Jake White and Peter de Villiers one.