Heyneke Meyer believes the Springboks will end their World Cup campaign on a high and take some momentum into an ‘exciting’ 2016 season, reports JON CARDINELLI in London.
The Boks have been in this unenviable situation before. In 1999, Nick Mallett’s side lost to Australia in extra time of their World Cup semi-final. They were then forced to face the All Blacks in the third-place play-off. Somehow, the Boks picked themselves up for that clash, and won 22-18.
Meyer was an assistant to Mallett at the 1999 World Cup. He remembers offering Mallett support during what was a difficult period. However, now that Meyer finds himself in the same position, he has a greater appreciation for what Mallett experienced 16 years ago.
‘As a head coach, you take defeats a thousand times more personally than anyone else in the management team,’ said Meyer on Wednesday.
‘This has to be the toughest week. Our hopes and dreams [of winning the World Cup] have just been shattered. We know that winning the title is the only thing that is good enough for South Africa. That said, we have to focus on putting in one more quality performance against Argentina.
‘The players have been in despair these past few days, just like they were in 1999 [after losing their semi-final to Australia]. This is where we have to show some mental toughness.’
At this point, there is no clarity regarding the future of the Bok coach and his management team. SARugbymag.co.za understands that Meyer has already signed a contract extension. However, the man himself continues to give one the impression that nothing has been finalised.
‘I don’t want to get too emotional,’ Meyer said at the press conference. ‘Listen to me, it sounds like I’m talking as if this will be my last Test.
‘The thing we do as coaches is that we forget the good times. We tend to dwell on the bad moments. That loss to Japan was a low point in my coaching career, but I did learn something from it. I have made mistakes, but I still love this job and I love my country.
‘It’s great to know that people still support us. Somebody asked me to sign a rugby ball the other day. My reaction was, “Why would you want my signature if I’ve just cost the country the biggest trophy in the world?”
‘I do feel that I have made a difference, though. One of my greatest moments as a coach was when Bakkies Botha handed me his Test jersey [before the 2007 World Cup]. All the players were asked to present a jersey to the most influential person in their lives. And Bakkies chose me.
‘I know I'm crazy. I’m a total nutter. When I watch the video afterwards [of his coach-box antics], I can’t believe that is me. But that is how much I love my country.’
Meyer maintains that the youngsters who received opportunities over the course of this campaign will benefit from the experience in future. Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Handré Pollard, Lood de Jager and Frans Malherbe are all under the age of 25. All five started in the semi-final against the All Blacks. All five could potentially feature at the next two World Cups.
‘I regret not winning the title for the country, but I believe this team will be special,' said Meyer. 'It’s very exciting to see that more players will be [nationally] contracted from next season. If we can keep those guys together, South Africa will be very dangerous.’
Photo: Steve Bardens/Getty Images