All Blacks not on Heyneke’s mind
There appears to be a focus back at home among Springbok fans that their team should be trying to emulate the All Blacks in every game they play, but it is not a pre-occupation shared by coach Heyneke Meyer.
The successor to Peter de Villiers said on the day he took up office that to him there is only one kind of rugby, winning rugby, and while his Bulls team often trampled opponents underfoot – ask the Stormers team that lost
75-14 at Loftus in 2005 and the Reds team that got smashed in 2007 – he never really took too much notice of margin of victory.
What was important to Meyer was that the job was done, and that the trophy was secured, something that during his years in Pretoria happened quite a lot.
He is also a man for processes, for putting systems in place, and while he knows patience is not something a Bok coach should expect from the public, he also knows it may be necessary.
Meyer accepts that back home the expectation will be for his team to match what the All Blacks did last Sunday by scoring 51 points, but for him, as long as the Boks tick all their performance boxes and meet the targets set them in terms of getting the game right, a one-point win will do.
“We’ve got tough supporters who want 50 points in every single test match, and last time we were here we lost,” said Meyer.
“Without being a romantic, what people have to realise is that every game is different. The All Blacks put 60 points on Ireland the last time they played them in June, but the week before that they had to rely on a late drop-goal for their win. You can’t compare two games. The conditions are different and previous teams of mine have been criticised because they didn’t score enough points but then they won trophies.
“New Zealand are obviously a quality side, but we have to focus on the way we want to go, and not worry about them. Winning is a non-negotiable, I don’t care if it’s by one point or two points, we just want to go out there and win the game.”
Meyer may not be thinking of New Zealand now, but they will be firmly in his sights next year.
TIME MOVES QUICKLY
When the Boks reconvene next June for a quadrangular tournament featuring tier-two nations and Scotland without their British and Irish Lions in South Africa next June, they will have not much more than 20 games to go until the start of the next World Cup year.
Meyer knows that time moves quickly, and he always said this one would be his most difficult year, a tough one to get through.
The win in Dublin last week, his first on overseas soil, has taken the Boks to a 50% win record in 2012, which is less than most Bok fans would have hoped for, and he knows good wins here on Saturday and in London next week are necessary for both the players’ confidence and his own peace of mind.
But regardless of what transpires in these next eight days, he is hopeful because of the young players who have come through and announced themselves as international players, and he is also emboldened by the knowledge that a core of experienced players will start filtering back after this year is done.
He has made no secret of his desire to get Fourie du Preez and Jaque Fourie back from Japan and available for the Boks again, and then there are the players who sat out this year because of injury.
“My whole aim is, by the World Cup in England, to have these young guys like Eben Etzebeth, Marcell Coetzee and others in a situation where they have picked up 40 or 50 caps by the age of 23 or 24. That’s where I want to be, and if we can get that together, it will be great for our chances.
"What is good is that at the moment I don’t know how I am going to accommodate some of the other players when they come back.
“For instance, our loose forwards have been magnificent for us over the past few months, but next year we will hopefully have Schalk Burger and Juan Smith back in the game. How are we going to accommodate them? So although this was a tough year in terms of results, I do feel like we have been building a good base.
“Players have come through and put up their hands, and the guys are gaining experience and getting the mental toughness that is necessary for international rugby success. I think we are in a good space and I really think that from next year we are going to start developing into a very successful team and we will close the gap between ourselves and the All Blacks.”
But right now the imperative is to get through the Scotland game with a win, and then the England game, while in the process hopefully seeing someone like Patrick Lambie nail down his place in the plans going forward.
The All Blacks, and what they do against other opposition, are not a current concern.