England a defining test for Boks
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is approaching the final test of the end-of-year-tour against England at Twickenham as the defining match of the 2012 campaign.
Not for the first time in recent Bok history, the South Africans have arrived in the England capital with the final match of the year set to define whether or not the year will be remembered as a success or a failure.
In 2008 the record 42-6 victory scored by Peter de Villiers’s team salvaged his first year in charge, and in 2010 a similarly emphatic result salvaged a tour that had gone off track with a defeat to Scotland the previous week.
“This is a very important game for us as a win will bring an interesting perspective to the season,” said Meyer.
“Winning every game on this tour was one of our goals when we set out. We haven’t completed unbeaten tours over here for a while now (the last time it happened was 2008), and if you look at the whole year and put it in perspective, if we beat England at Twickenham we would have ended with just three defeats in the whole season.
“For a young team that has had a lot of change since the World Cup a year ago, that would not be a bad record at all and would be an indication that we are moving in the right direction.
"The 2009 year was supposed to be one of the most successful ever for Springbok rugby, and yet if you look back at the record from that season, you will note that they actually lost four games.
“Saturday’s will be a very tough game, we obviously have a lot of respect for England, and it is also the end of a long year. But if we get through it with a win, then I think this has been a good year.”
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Of course what Meyer doesn’t mention is that his team was held to three draws this year, which means that his actual success rate if the Boks win on Saturday still won’t be up with the best, as that is based on matches won.
For many South Africans, draws to Argentina in Mendoza and England in Port Elizabeth were like defeats.
But nonetheless, he is right in saying that his record doesn’t compare unfavourably to other Bok coaches in their first year, and his is a developing team rather than the world champion squad that started the Peter de Villiers era in 2008.
“If you look at the number of changes we will have at Twickenham in comparison to when we last played England back home in South Africa in June, you realise how much change there has been this year,” said Meyer.
“We had a number of changes then brought about players retiring or going overseas following the World Cup, but at least then we still had players like Bismarck du Plessis, Frans Steyn, Beast Mtawarira and Bryan Habana,” said Meyer.
“When I look at the team that played in June, it feels like many years ago, not just a matter of a few months. But the players that have come through since then, and the growth we have undergone as a team, suggests we are moving forward and I am happy with that.
"I just think it is important to finish off with a win so that it can show the progress that has been made.”