Going through articles on various web sites I came across one where Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer explains some of his selections, where he sometimes got it wrong and sometimes got it right.
I know we as supporters tend to give the coach hell when he gets things wrong and things are a long way from being perfect, but we also need to give credit where it is due. I for one have not been that happy with the treatment from supporters with regards to Patrick Lambie, as I felt people were not putting things into perspective and thus could not judge him fairly.
The same however can be said for quite a few other players within the squad and of course a lot of things needs to change in order to have a team which plays a satisfactory style of play, doing justice to Springbok culture. I believe thus that supporters should be a little more patient and understanding as to what the problems are within Springbok rugby and what the coach is trying to achieve as well as why he is trying to achieve his goals, the way he is.
Of course the Springboks won ugly during the past tour to the Northern Hemisphere, but surely we should be happy the Springboks won for now and the coach should be given time to change things as the team grows. I would love to see a more expansive approach but there are a few things we should take into account.
- The coach is still quite new and with many young players you cannot just throw the game open to risk.
- The Coach of course not having coached for a while, was also a little outdated in his theories or selection policies and seem to be admitting it as such, thus the many strange selections and reverse in what he was saying he was trying to do.
- We need to take into account that the Springbok team is without many injured stars like Francois Steyn, Andries Bekker, Bryan Habana, Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira, Bismark du Plessis, Heinrich Brüssow, Pierre Spies, Schalk Burger and Johan Goosen, to name a few, and of course the Springboks have some stars playing around the world who are now unavailable due to their subscribed contracts.
- The players have just toured after the longest season in South African rugby history and surely it should be taken into account that a players body – irrespective of being Professional or not or earning huge amounts of money – can only take so much. If one takes Jannie du Plessis as an example, this tight head prop has played 36 matches in one season, something that was unheard of before.
- Of course the conditions on most of the playing surfaces were atrocious, for example we saw in the Springboks vs Ireland test how large chunks of grass was being ripped out due to the wet conditions.
WHAT AREAS OF THE GAME DO WE EXPECT THE COACH TO RECTIFY?
- Interplay between the players for continuity of attacking play.
- Empowerment of players and giving them freedom to express themselves in the game.
- Acceptance of the current style of play is not enough to grow as a team and adopting the modern game which includes a more expansive style, should be implemented.
- Look critically at the Coaching staff, see who really enhances the team’s progress.
- Grow or expand the depth in the squad so that players are not overplayed. To my understanding this should be the provincial coach’s responsibility but one also has to take into account who actually pays the player salaries as well as the fact that if these top players did not play in the local competitions it would downgrade them resulting in the already low spectator volumes dropping even more.
- Improve the understanding between forwards and backs, as there is clearly a huge gap in gelling the team as a unit. Skill levels at times is also not as it should be.
All we can say in hind sight is that the head coach’s job is not an easy one and as much as one would want to castigate the coach for poor selections, game plans and game styles, supporters should be big enough to be patient and understand what the coach is trying to achieve as well as why he is doing it in way he knows best. I have no doubt one can put any other coach in place and he will still always go about it in his own way, until such time as he feels he has settled in, then when he finds things are not working, he will still have to change to whatever it requires to have a winning team.
PLAYERS WHO CHANGED HEYNEKE MEYER’S MIND
The article below, was penned by Gavin Rich on 26 November 2012:
The best Springbok coaches have been those that have been prepared to admit their mistakes and who haven’t been weighed down by blind spots, and in that respect Heyneke Meyer has offered plenty of encouragement to those who want to see South Africa rise back to the top of the rugby pile.
Meyer has been forthright in admitting that he has made many errors, and got a few selections wrong on the way through an often turbulent first year at the helm of the Boks. And on Sunday he admitted before returning home to South Africa that there had been several players he had been wrong about and who had surprised him.
Patrick Lambie, after being backed to start at No 10 in every game of the just completed end of year tour, is of course right at the top of the list of players that Meyer may have a lot more faith in now than he had when he started out back in May.
Without quite saying it in as many words, Meyer made it clear that Lambie would be at the top of the flyhalf queue when the international season starts next year. He said Lambie had done all he had been asked to do when he was selected to wear the Bok No 10 jersey, and his praise for what Lambie did on tour has been a far cry from the message he gave the Sharks player when they first met for a one-on-one interview.
Back then Meyer made it clear that he considered Lambie more of a fullback than a flyhalf, and that Lambie was low down on the list of flyhalves but second on the pecking order when it came to fullbacks. “I did think Pat was mostly a fullback. I had seen him play as a youngster in that one Currie Cup final (Sharks against Western Province in 2010) when I thought he was very tactically astute, but I thought he had lost a lot of that since then,” said Meyer. “He hasn’t played much as a flyhalf since then, and I felt that there were big improvements he needed to make in his tactical game.
But then I started seeing in training that he could play a good tactical game, and against England at Twickenham he really underlined it. I thought he was brilliant in the wet conditions. “One of the things I really like about him is that he never panics, and he is so level headed.
One of the problems before was that he was never one of those guys who boasted an 85% success rate in kicking for goal. I wasn’t sure he could handle the pressure of being the frontline place-kicker in a test match. Remember that Frederic Michalak appeared to end the last Super Rugby season as the frontline kicker for the Sharks.” Meyer said that as he still rated Morne Steyn’s ability, the decision to select Lambie as the first choice flyhalf on tour had been a huge call for him to make. “He is not a natural flyhalf, but he is getting there and the more he plays there the better he will get.
He is great at seeing space and playing players into it. And his goalkicking on tour was good. He showed me that he can kick under pressure. One of the reasons we won at Twickenham was because for the first time this year we ended with a 100% goalkicking record.” While Lambie has earned a thumbs up from the coach, and the Sharks’ decision to play him exclusively as a flyhalf next year will certainly help his cause, the man who really shocked and astounded Meyer this year was actually loose-forward Francois Louw.
After starting the year by invoking the ire of many Bok supporters by ignoring the claims of specialist fetcher Heinrich Brussow, Meyer eventually acknowledged that his loose trio lacked balance and an SOS was sent to the former WP player, who has been playing for Bath for the past 15 months. “Francois was definitely the player who totally blew me away.
I think we saw in these tests over here in the northern hemisphere that it is not so much about the battle on the ground. In Super Rugby there was a lot of blowing of players for going off their feet when cleaning at the ruck, but I haven’t seen it once in the November tests this year. “So I don’t know if you need a specialist openside, but Francois brings so much to our game and he has really been phenomenal for us this year.
The good thing is that Marcell Coetzee also appears to be learning from Flo, so we should next season have two players who can both play to the ball and carry when needed to. “Francois also plays really well with Duane Vermeulen, and he is another guy I have been surprised about.
I normally like my openside flank to play to the ball, and the blindside flank to be a carrier, and then the No 8 to be a really pacy guy like Ryan Kankowski or Pierre Spies who can contribute in broken play. “But although Duane is certainly not the quickest No 8, he brings so many things. He sets the lineout drive so well, and he is a great stealer, and works well in tandem with Flo in that regard. He is the perfect player to have at No 8 in the northern hemisphere conditions.”