Heyneke Meyer feels that Cornal Hendricks’s dubious yellow card killed any chance of a Springbok comeback at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Cardiff.
The 12-6 defeat is only South Africa’s second to Wales in the history of the game. The Boks are hurting after such a disappointing result and performance. The players and the coach have taken responsibility for their mistakes and poor decision-making. However, mixed in with the feelings of disappointment is a fair amount of frustration.
Yet again, this is down to a shocking refereeing decision that influenced the final result. The Boks felt hard done by in a Test against Australia in Perth this past September, when George Clancy penalised Duane Vermeulen for a legitimate hit, and then sent Bryan Habana to the sin bin for an innocuous tackle in the second half. In Cardiff on Saturday, it was John Lacey who got it wrong when he sent Hendricks from the field for a challenge well within the laws.
Meyer said afterwards that he wasn’t allowed to criticise referees. And yet his comments and tone were far from flattering. He invited journalists to read between the lines.
‘Maybe we need to change our tactics,’ the Bok coach said sarcastically. ‘It’s getting to the point where you don’t even want to have players jumping and competing for the ball. Every time it’s a 50/50. Maybe I should tell them [the Bok players] to wait until the opposition has landed first before they compete.
‘We are not an ill-disciplined team,’ he continued. ‘We had the best disciplinary record in the Rugby Championship, and I always coach players to play within the laws. When the ball goes up in the air, it’s a contest. But maybe it’s too much of a grey area at the moment.
‘I’m not allowed to comment on referees, and I don’t want to make excuses. But it was a big blow to lose our captain [Jean de Villiers to injury in the 56th minute], and then get a call like that. That was pretty much it. We were six points behind at that stage, and looking to close the gap. But when you go a man down you have to be more defensive and it’s hard to build any momentum on attack.’
The bad call aside, Meyer admitted the Boks weren’t at their best against Wales. He lamented the individual errors on the day, and also suggested a lack of experience impacted on the display.
‘We always said this tour was going to test our character and our depth,’ he said. ‘There was a lot of pressure in that second half, and we had lost Jean. I had faith in Victor Matfield, the vice-captain, but losing Jean meant we had to bring on some youngsters. Some are new to this level, and some of the combinations, for example the back three, was new.
‘The result is disappointing, but I think we got some of the answers we wanted. It was a good experience for those players who hadn’t toured the northern hemisphere before, and I am satisfied that we have bolstered our depth.’
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