Victor Matfield has credited coach Heyneke Meyer for the Springboks’ change in World Cup fortunes, reports JON CARDINELLI in Birmingham.
Meyer and the Boks have experienced the full spectrum of emotions over the past week. Following the 34-32 defeat to Japan in Brighton, Meyer was inconsolable. He cut a dejected figure at the post-match press conference. He spoke quietly and with no conviction.
In the days that followed, the shock and disappointment made way for anger. It was revealed that the senior players had ignored the head coach’s tactical instructions during that Test against Japan.
Meyer worked to address the communication issues as well as the tactical differences. He made it clear that he was the boss, and that from hereon in, it was his way or the highway.
The Boks went on to destroy Samoa 46-6 at Villa Park. The forwards subdued their Samoan counterparts. The Bok halfbacks converted that dominance into territory.
The pressure told, and Samoa were forced to impede. At the back end of the contest, the Samoa defence tired, and South Africa piled on the tries to complete the rout.
At the post-match press conference, Meyer admitted that his overriding emotion was relief; relief that the Boks were on the board in this tournament, relief that the seven days succeeding the defeat to Japan were over, and relief that his players had finally realised what it takes to win.
Bok skipper Jean de Villiers was rushed to hospital after the match for X-rays to his injured jaw, and missed the press conference as a result. Matfield, the team’s vice-captain, was on hand, and spoke about changes over the past week.
‘My wife often makes the comment that I will walk through fire for Heyneke. He’s the reason I came back [to international rugby in 2014]. It’s been great to see him taking command this week,’ said Matfield. ‘All Heyneke’s craziness, all the energy he’s brought to the team this past week, it’s really help put us on the right path. Every single player in the squad is behind this plan.’
Meyer admitted that one needed to be a bit crazy to coach an international rugby team.
‘Sometimes I think I’m crazy as hell to do this. It’s been tough on me, which is fine. You have to be able to deal with those tough times. It’s just that all the criticism has been really hard on my family,’ the Bok coach said.
‘The intensity and desire shown by the team really impressed me. The guys didn’t let Samoa play. They put their bodies on the line and showed that they listened to me in terms of the game plan. That in particular makes me happy.
‘We’ve got to keep that going. It’s not good enough to produce one performance like that and then fall away next week against Scotland.
‘Attack puts bums on seats and defence wins trophies,’ Meyer added. ‘We didn’t give away a try and that’s what impressed me. That’s World Cup rugby.
‘It’s good to see a green pack going forward again. A lot of people have lost respect for the Springbok forwards. I would say that the quality of our mauling and our defence was more impressive than the tries. We made a statement against Samoa.’
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