Cape Town – South Africa endured one of their most challenging Super Rugby seasons to date in the same year they are hoping to lift the Rugby World Cup, but national team coach Heyneke Meyer is not pushing the panic buttons yet.
None of the country’s five teams managed to make the semi-finals, the first time South Africa will not be represented at that stage of the competition since 2003 when they bombed out of the World Cup in Australia with barely a whimper.
That might be a bad omen for Meyer, and the reality is that too many of the country’s regular Springboks will look back with little cheer on what has been a dismal campaign.
Had the competition format not forced a South African team into the knockout stages, their best-placed side, the Stormers, would only have had enough points for seventh place in the regular season table.
But Meyer told reporters recently that while the form of the South African sides presents a worry, he is not having sleepless nights just yet.
“If you look at the other countries, I know it is not always easy to compare, but many of the other superstars have not been at their best so it is important to peak at the right time.
“Confidence is contagious and so is a lack of confidence. In 2007 two (South African) teams were in the (Super Rugby) final and we won the World Cup so if I could have picked then obviously I would have liked teams to be in the final.
“But I don’t think it is the be all and end all of winning the World Cup.”
Meyer said what was important now was that his Boks destined for the World Cup begin to pick up their form in the Rugby Championship starting next month.
“A lot of the guys who are not on form are world-class players and one thing I have seen with these players is that once they put on the Springbok jersey we are talking about a totally different animal and it is my job to get their confidence up.”
Meyer reiterated a long-stated mantra that he will pick his World Cup squad on form and that he does expect to see an improvement from players who may feel they are a sure bet for a place in his squad for the tournament.
“I have had a lot of meetings with the senior guys to see where they stand. I am confident we will get these guys back up into form, but they do also have to put up their hand and show they are good enough.”
The World Cup will be held in England from September 18 to October 31. South Africa are in Pool B along with Japan, Samoa, Scotland and United States.