Meyer 'relieved', but more to be done
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer pronounced himself a relieved man after winning his first test against England at King’s Park on Saturday.
But Meyer was quick to calm any celebrations with a call for even harder work from his Springbok side as they head into the second of three test matches against Stuart Lancaster’s team this winter.
Meyer reminded all who would listen that his team had achieved little yet, and that they had set themselves “higher standards” than the 22-17 win on Saturday.
As the team moves to the Highveld, Meyer will have worries about the injuries to Zane Kirchner (ankle) and Francois Hougaard (swollen eye) while Bryan Habana also took a knock during the game. Most of these concerns may have dissipated by the time the team trains on Monday and more clarity will appear on Sunday.
The Bok coach has undergone a rough ride in public since taking over the team, with fans not warming to his team choices.
But the second-half performance, which saw the Boks completely dominate England at times, was enough to show that the team’s potential can be great if they get things right.
And Meyer was adamant that the win was great, but that there was a lot of hard work ahead for the team in the coming week.
“We have to look at the breakdown, we didn’t get quality ball in the first half and we will have to look at the set phases in the first half as well,” Meyer said.
“I was unhappy with the defence and in particular that last try. It was unacceptable, but this group hasn’t defended as a team before. Defence is something you can coach but the commitment you can’t. It was great to see that sort of commitment on the field.
“We set ourselves higher standards and the team has embraced that. It is luckily easy to work with players like that.”
Meyer said a brief halftime talk, and some urging from captain Jean de Villiers had come out a different, more direct side in the second half.
“I said to the forwards it was not good enough and we needed to up the tempo, and get some better cleans. At some stages we really played great rugby,” Meyer said.
“I’m happy with the result, even though we missed one or two tries we should have scored. We will have to work on that.”
England coach Stuart Lancaster conceded his side had lost to a better side, but said they would learn from the experience and would come back stronger.
“In the first half we moved the ball well and we challenged them defensively to the extent they found it hard to reorganise defensively. We went in at halftime in a positive frame of mind, but the Boks came out in the third quarter and dominated that period of play,” Lancaster said.
“Yes the Boks will be better this week but we will also learn a lot from the game as we would. We have lots of youngsters and that’s what happens when they learn to play in this intensity at this level in this country. We will keep positive in the way we approach it.
“We are going up to Johannesburg and we have the midweek game and we will be able to see the effect of altitude on the decisions we make in selection. It will be a busy week.”