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Heyneke Meyer

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer was left visibly frustrated and annoyed his side had failed to end the All Blacks’ five-year winning streak in New Zealand.

Deep down, however, he knew the mistakes that had been made could be rectified and the youngsters in his team would only be better for their tight 14-10 defeat to the world champions in Wellington on Saturday.

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Cornal Hendricks

Silver lining: Cornal Hendricks scored an excellent try.

The Springboks put a positive spin on their narrow defeat to the All Blacks in a bruising encounter on Saturday, saying they learnt valuable lessons a year out from the World Cup.

The 14-10 defeat in Wellington all but ended the Springboks bid to prevent the All Blacks claiming the Rugby Championship trophy for a third successive year.

It also came at a price, with scrum-half Ruan Pienaar out for up to eight weeks with knee ligament damage and a question mark over flanker Francois Louw, who suffered an arm injury.

But in the plus column, coach Heyneke Meyer saw a valuable return from his gamble to play 20-year-old Handre Pollard and 21-year-old Jan Serfontein against the top side in the world.

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Handré Pollard

Handré Pollard

Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer knew he had rolled the dice in selecting rookie flyhalf Handre Pollard to play against the All Blacks, but was pleased the 20-year-old had proved he was worth the gamble.

Pollard hardly put a foot wrong in his fourth test, and first against the world champions, driving the Springboks around Wellington Regional Stadium, producing a superb inside pass to set up their only try and providing a solid kicking game.

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Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen doesn’t mind having a public pop at the Wallabies, but when it comes to one of world rugby’s enduring rivalries, and South African coach Heyneke Meyer, there is nothing but mutual respect.

“I myself have a huge amount of respect for their coach [Heyneke Meyer]. I think he’s a good man and a good coach,” Hansen said today, ahead of Saturday night’s test against South Africa in Wellington.

“Their captain Jean [de Villiers], having his 100th game [on Saturday] I’d like to congratulate him on that.”

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Gavin Rich

Gavin Rich

Heyneke Meyer, as every Springbok coach has before him, will have his year’s work measured by how his side goes against the All Blacks.

That is just the way it is in South Africa and Meyer would have known that before he accepted the job. But if anyone thinks it’s a fair contest, and that he is pitting himself against his All Black adversary Steve Hansen on equal terms, they need to think again.

The expectations of South Africans do not match the rugby realities of the two countries. New Zealand’s centralised system, with Super Rugby coaches and players contracted to the NZRFU and everything geared towards making the All Blacks excellent, gives Hansen a leg up that Meyer doesn’t have.

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Brendan Venter

Brendan Venter

Having suffered defeat to the Wallabies this past Saturday, even the most die-hard Springbok supporters must be wondering if their team can win in New Zealand for the first time in five years.

Since taking the reins in 2012, Steve Hansen has forged a well-organised unit that plays with pride and purpose.

However, what makes the All Blacks most difficult to beat is their ball-in-hand threat.

To offer an example, in the final play of the first stanza against Argentina in Napier, the home side won a tighthead. Subsequently Beauden Barrett took the ball to the line, used his quick feet and evasiveness to pierce the defence and fed the lightening-quick Liam Messam, who scored the try.

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Heyneke Meyer

Bok coach Heyneke Meyer

South Africa have handed the controls to 20-year-old first five-eighth Handré Pollard as they look for an attacking spark to end their three-year drought against the All Blacks.

Pollard is the only change to the Springbok side that lost narrowly to Australia in Perth last week, but signals a major shift from coach Heyneke Meyer as he looks forward toward next year’s World Cup.

Significantly, Pollard, in what will be just his fourth test, pushes the more traditional South African veteran Morné Steyn out of the squad for what is South Africa’s biggest test of The Rugby Championship so far this year.

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Rapport Transformation Agenda

SA Rugby transformation Agenda

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has confirmed its plans to ensure that half the Springbok team is made up of players of colour by 2019.

Rapport on Sunday revealed SARU’s Transformation Strategic Plan, which aims to bring all of South Africa’s representative rugby teams, along with domestic teams in line with national targets in five years.

Of the Springbok team currently competing in the Rugby Championship, 19% of the players are non-white, while only 12% are black African. Zimbabwean-born prop Tendai Mtawarira was the only black African player to start in the defeat to Australia in Perth, with Trevor Nyakane warming the bench.

But SARU wants to make sure that by 2019 at least half the Springbok side consists of players of colour, with 60% of those required to be black African.

SARU also set a mandate for Bok coach Heyneke Meyer to select at least five black players in his squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England as well as include seven players of colour in his match-day squad in the lead-up to the tournament.

According to Beeld, all 14 of South Africa’s provincial unions approved the new strategic plan on August 13 this year.

SARU has already shared the plan with SASCOC and the sports ministry. The next step is for SARU’s general council to approve the plan.

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Heyneke Meyer

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer

The Springboks will need a monumental effort to down the All Blacks, but coach Heyneke Meyer believes South Africa can win for the first time in New Zealand in five years.

South Africa face to the world champions in Wellington next Saturday trailing by three points on the Rugby Championship standings after a last-gasp 24-23 loss to the Wallabies in Perth on Saturday.

It was the Springboks’ first defeat in this year’s four-nation tournament after winning back-to-back against Argentina, but they face their supreme test away to the All Blacks.

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Bryan Habana

Centurion Bryan Habana

The Springboks will seek “clarity” around Bryan Habana’s controversial sin-binning but have refused to blame match officials for their one-point loss to the Wallabies in Perth.

Referee George Clancy’s call to pull a yellow card from his pocket in response to Habana’s high shot on Australian winger Rob Horne in the 65th minute lit up social media with a torrent of criticism for Clancy and the International Rugby Board’s management of its match officials.

And while a clearly agitated Heyneke Meyer walked into the post-match media conference after the match, the South African coach demurred from jumping on board, calling instead for “consistency” across the board.

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Jacques Potgieter

Jacques Potgieter

He became an honorary Australian by starring for the Waratahs in their Super Rugby triumph but Jacques Potgieter is set to go from teammate to fierce Test rival with a recall to the Springboks later this month.

The wildman flanker, who became a cult hero for NSW, is a favourite of Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer and News Corporation understands Potgieter will be drafted into the South African squad for home games against Australia and New Zealand.

Potgieter is currently playing in Japan for the Fukuoka Sanix Blues but recently returned to South Africa on holidays and spoke with Meyer at the Boks’ first Test win over Argentina at Loftus Versfeld.

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Heyneke Meyer

“It’s always physical playing against Australia”, says Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer.

The last time Heyneke Meyer set foot on Australian soil he heaped praise at the feet of the Wallabies and promptly directed they be torn apart at Suncorp Stadium a few days later.

There was an ominous familiarity then in Meyer’s comments this week in Perth, where South Africa are angling for a ninth-straight Test win and fourth on the trot against a wounded Australia.

Wallabies, a bad team? They’re “brilliant”, but played “one bad game”. The Australian forwards, “powder puffs”? Never. The Wallabies’ back line is “big, quick and in form”, with a newly-acquired kicking game and two “world-class” players on the bench.

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South AfricaSpringbok coach Heyneke Meyer expects higher standards in Australia than his side achieved against Argentina.

Although they beat the Pumas at home and away, neither of the wins were convincing with torrential rain slowing them down in Pretoria before they got out of jail in Salta.

Meyer admitted that he was not satisfied with their two performances thus far, and added that they will have to lift their standards if they are to get the better of a competitive Wallabies outfit.

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South AfricaVictor Matfield is over his injury problems and will rejoin the Springbok squad when they get together for the Australasian leg of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, while Marcel van der Merwe has been called up for the injured Frans Malherbe.

Furthermore, Willem Alberts has also been drafted back into the squad, pending a fitness test on Thursday when the squad gets together in Johannesburg. Both Alberts and Matfield were part of the initial 30-man squad, but missed out on the victories over Argentina in Pretoria and Salta because of injury.

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Jannie du Plessis

Springbok prop, Jannie du Plessis

After the mauling the Springbok scrum received at the hands of the Pumas in two consecutive tests there have been calls from armchair critics for coach Heyneke Meyer to make changes, but in the naming of his 30-man squad for the Australasian leg of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship came confirmation that his hands are tied.

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Lood de Jager

Lood de Jager

Lood de Jager, the ‘next big thing’ in the Springbok second row, has been ‘missing in action’ of late.

De Jager, after a series of stand-out performances for the Cheetahs in this year’s Super Rugby tournament, made his debut in the Green and Gold against Wales in Durban during the Incoming Series and currently has five Test caps to his name.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Taking their heads out of the sand and admitting that there is a massive problem with the scrum would be a good start, but the Springbok self-analysis will have to go far further than that if the problems that were exposed by Argentina are not to lead to crisis later in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.

On a Saturday when New Zealand comprehensively swept away any doubt that they remain the team to beat and confirmed the pre-tournament predictions that they should retain their hegemony in southern hemisphere rugby, Salta provided evidence that the creaks that started to show themselves in the South African game in the second test against Wales may not have just been an aberration.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer, the coach of the team with the most “character” in the world.

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer hailed the character of his team Sunday in the wake of a lucky 33-31 Rugby Championship victory over Argentina in Salta.

Serial match-winner Morne Steyn ignored whistling and booing to slot a penalty three minutes from time and give the Springboks a second win over the Pumas within eight days.

It was the climax of a stirring last-quarter comeback by the visitors as tries from right-wing Cornal Hendricks and flank Marcell Coetzee wiped out a 12-point deficit.

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Lood de Jager

Lood de Jager

The Springboks made three changes to their starting XV, with two of them effecting the line-out structures – which already appeared weak in Pretoria last week.

The line-out has long been a strength of the Boks, and a lot of this dominance in the set pieces can be attributed to the maestro that is Victor Matfield.

The veteran lock was sorely missed last weekend when the Boks’ line-out struggled, in albeit poor conditions, against the Argentineans at Loftus Versfeld.

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South AfricaJuan Smith will complete a remarkable return to international rugby when he runs out for the Springboks against Argentina in Salta on Saturday, in the Springboks’ second Test of The Rugby Championship (kick-off 21:40 SA Time).

Smith’s inclusion at flank is one of three changes to the starting 15, with a further four changes on the bench.

Gurthrö Steenkamp (prop) and Eben Etzebeth (lock) will start in the tight five, with Tendai Mtawarira and Bakkies Botha moving to the bench. Marcell Coetzee will join them amongst the replacements after coming in as a late substitute for the injured Willem Alberts last weekend.

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South AfricaThe Springboks have landed in Argentina with no injury concerns, but Meyer will be forced to ponder the likes of fit-again Pat Lambie and Juan Smith.

Having come away from the wet and wild Loftus Versfeld with only an injury before the game to Willem Alberts, Meyer will have a full compliment to pick from when they play Argentina in Salta.

Meyer has now picked up Lions captain Warren Whiteley as cover for Alberts who is staying at home alongside Victor Matfield.

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WP RugbyWhen the Springboks finished off their 2013 campaign with a victory over France in Paris, coach Heyneke Meyer spoke about the need for South African rugby to undergo revolutionary change in order to close the gap that the All Blacks enjoyed when it came to conditioning and mental strength.

At the start of the 2014 Castle Lager Rugby Championship, he continued the theme of revolution, this time talking about the need to bring greater intensity and tempo to the Bok game, to be able to out-think opponents now that the days of bludgeoning opposition with physicality are in the past.

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Jannie du Plessis & Tendai Mtawarira

Jannie du Plessis & Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira

The Springboks missed an ideal opportunity to put the pressure on New Zealand and Australia after the latter two sides drew 12-all in the first game of this year’s Rugby Championship at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney on Saturday.

To say the unseasonal Loftus monsoon made constructive rugby extremely difficult is an understatement, but one would like to believe that the Boks should have played the situation much better than Saturday’s 13-6 victory in their opener against Argentina in Pretoria.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is set to use a very different starting line-up when his team face off with Argentina in their Castle Lager Rugby Championship return fixture in Salta on Saturday.

While the Loftus Versfeld monsoon did little to answer questions ahead of the bigger clashes in this year’s Championship, it did at least give the Boks a solid start to the campaign and much food for thought ahead of the traditionally tough return fixture in Argentina.

Following a narrow win last year and a draw in 2012, the Boks know all too well how difficult the Argentinean experience will be for them, and are likely to bolster their squad with a number of senior players when they make their team selection on Wednesday.

The side arrived in Sao Paulo safely en route to Buenos Aires and will get there Monday evening South African time, meaning there will only be time for two training sessions before they transfer to Salta later in the week for the game.

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South AfricaContrary to the expected dry conditions on the Highveld, the Springboks had to adapt to hail and torrential rain in their narrow 13-6 Rugby Championship opener against Argentina in Pretoria on Saturday.

“We really wanted to play exciting rugby. We picked an exciting backline as we thought we would have an open, running game on the Highveld,” Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said after the nail-biting match.

“I am very proud of the team. That game could have gone either way. A lot of the Argentineans play in Europe, where they are used to the conditions, and they forced us into a kicking battle.”

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Craig Roberts

Dr Craig Roberts

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has been given a massive boost with the news that he should be able to pick as close to his strongest side for this weekend’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship opener against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld.

Team doctor Craig Roberts cleared props Frans Malherbe, Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira and lock Eben Etzebeth for action and crucially also gave captain Jean de Villiers the all-clear to play this weekend after spending the last few months on the sidelines with injury.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

The question to be asked is: How does Heyneke Meyer compare with South Africa’s most successful coaches?

For this exercise, I decided to take two former coaches – the World Cup-winner, Jake White and Nick Mallett, who is currently the co-holder of the record for most consecutive Test victories – to draw a comparison with Meyer’s first two years in the hotseat.

The cold statistics will tell us only part of the story, but it is certainly important that we take them into account – or at least use it as a starting point.

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Heyneke Meyer emotional and animated in the game between Wallabies vs Springboks, The Rugby Championship, Brisbane, 7 September 2013

Heyneke Meyer emotional and animated in the game between Wallabies vs Springboks, The Rugby Championship, Brisbane, 7 September 2013

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is adamant in his belief the Boks won’t be the best in the world until they get their conditioning right.

While Meyer admits the relationship between the various Super Rugby franchises and the Springboks has taken massive steps forward, and right now, the Boks are probably ahead of their fitness goals for this time of the season, the whole mindset needs to be radically challenged across the board, with the modern game calling for super fit players who can play at pace.

If there ever was an advert for this, the Vodacom Super Rugby final comes to mind, and where in the past the Boks have tried to slow the game down, they now will need to confront the pace and show they can play at the same level, if not better when they need to if they are to get to the top of the world rankings.

This in itself is a mindshift that needs to happen across the board. While the overseas departures weakened Super Rugby franchises this year many of the problems encountered at Super Rugby level – especially on defence – were because sides fell off the pace and therefore let in soft tries.

Meyer presented his ideas to the board last year and already conditioning expert Basil Carzis has been working with the franchises, but the Boks need to do more.

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Eben Etzebeth

Eben Etzebeth

Frans Malherbe

Frans Malherbe

Two members of the Springboks’ Castle Lager Rugby Championship squad, Eben Etzebeth and Frans Malherbe, have been released to play in the opening round of the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division for DHL Western Province on Friday evening.

Both players are returning from long-term injuries and will be allowed some game time for WP to ease them back into the game.

Etzebeth’s last game was in November 2013, for the Springboks against France in Paris, where he picked up a foot injury. Malherbe has been out for more than three months with concussion.

“Following medical assessments and consultation between our medical team and those of the various provinces, it was decided to release Eben and Frans for this weekend,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

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Jean de Villiers

Jean de Villiers

South AfricaSpringbok captain Jean de Villiers has recovered from the knee injury which kept him out of the June Tests and is back in the national squad for the forthcoming Castle Lager Rugby Championship.

De Villiers is one of six players returning from injury after missing the entire or a part of the Castle Lager Incoming Series.

The others are Tendai Mtawarira (prop), Frans Malherbe (prop), Eben Etzebeth (lock), Patrick Lambie (flyhalf / fullback) and Damian de Allende (centre).

De Allende, who was forced to withdraw from the squad in June because of a knee ligament injury, and scrumhalf Cobus Reinach are the only two uncapped players in the 30-man Springbok squad.

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Heyneke Meyer

Is Heyneke Meyer putting too many “old eggs” in one basket?

Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer continues his “Dad’s Army” approach by recalling veteran flanker Juan Smith for a training camp ahead of next month’s Rugby Championship.

French club Toulon confirmed three of their South African signings – Smith, lock Bakkies Botha and wing Bryan Habana – would be involved in the Boks camp.

Smith, 32, hasn’t played for the Boks since 2010 as Achilles injuries requiring four surgeries ravaged his career, eventually forcing him to “retire” early last year.

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Rassie Erasmus

Rassie Erasmus at the 2014 Craven Week

Rassie Erasmus’ biggest role as high performance manager is to implement Heyneke Meyer’s plans across the board.

Erasmus, widely praised for his work in turning Western Province rugby around, was spotted at the Coca-Cola Craven Week in Middelburg. Having joined Saru as high performance manager in April 2012, Erasmus has been working tirelessly to implement a new structure in South African rugby, building a team of coaches, analysts and medical staff that can help develop the country’s best young talent into potential Springbok candidates. Craven Week plays an integral role in this development, something that Erasmus is well aware of.

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O joy... another maul

O joy… another maul

Winning the 2007 Rugby World Cup was a momentous occasion for Springboks but it has done little for the development of the way rugby is played in South Africa.

I believe that the so-called ‘Jake White template’ has been detrimental to South African rugby on a number of levels.

Let me start by saying that I can’t fault White’s tactics in 2007. Given the weapons at his disposal, the approach he adopted was spot on. The efficacy of this approach (when correctly executed) is not in question. My aim here is rather point to the consequences of the mindset that in has become enrooted in SA rugby because of it’s (limited) success.

Ross Hastie

What concerns me is that the territory-based and defence-orientated approach employed back then has been widely adopted in the Republic and in many quarters is still held up as a blueprint for future success.

From a coaching perspective, it’s not difficult to see why this methodology is popular. Giant men imposing themselves with hard, straight running and big hits have always been the hallmarks of the South African style.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Lood de Jager

Lood de Jager

The joke is going around that Heyneke Meyer describes everything the Bokke does as “AWESOME“!

Well, the South African public have reason to be AWED by the AWESOME display of the Springboks and their AWESOME coach!

Not only are the Springboks playing a very well-rounded and balanced game, 2 and a half years into Heyneke Meyer’s tenure, but it appears that the Springoks can now call on 40 odd players to do National duty for them at any given time.

Not only do the Springboks have locks of absolute world class to burn, the looseforwards are equally impressive, the midfield options have been greatly bolstered… and the flyhalf stocks are suddenly no concern anymore, with well-rounded performances by Handré Pollard and Marnitz Boshoff.

The biggest problems still for the Springboks, seem to be adequate depth at both loosehead and tighthead prop.

With almost 30 frontline Springboks out with injury and / or not available due to the International Window having closed before the start of the Test on the weekend, the mix-and-match Springboks certainly excelled on the weekend.

The 5 Springbok debutants, Handré Pollard, Marnitz Boshoff, Marcel van der Merwe, Stephan Lewies and Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje also distinguished themselves on the field of play.

At the end of the June Internationals, the Springboks and Heyneke Meyer finally have reason to smile!

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