Meyer lauds decisive duo

Heyneke Meyer has praised the ‘tactical genius’ of Fourie du Preez and Duane Vermeulen in the wake of their match-winning effort in the World Cup quarter-final, reports JON CARDINELLI in London.

The Boks are through to the semi-finals. For that, they have Du Preez and Vermeulen to thank.

Indeed, while there were some incredible physical performances by Schalk Burger, Damian de Allende and several others over the course of the contest, it took one move worked by Du Preez and Vermeulen at the death to secure the result. The Boks needed something special to crack one of the best defences in the tournament.

Afterwards, a visibly relieved Bok coach said that the decision to break blind from the final scrum was not his call. In fact, Meyer had nothing to do with the idea at all.

He confirmed that Du Preez and Vermeulen had played with the idea in training this week. And even when the opportunity to use the move arose in the 75th minute, Meyer didn’t think the pair would take it.

‘I need some oxygen after that game,’ Meyer said with a laugh. ‘I just feel so blessed to know that we are through to the … what’s the English word for halfeindstryd? Forgive me, it’s been a big day and I’m only now starting to relax.

‘I could kiss Fourie. His decision-making was superb. I really thought that the players would try and win the penalty at that scrum. Instead, they decided to use the move they had worked on during the week, and it came off. They must take all the credit.’

Du Preez revealed that the move was known simply as ‘Go Left’. The Bok captain said he was pleased with the composure shown by his charges in the second stanza.

‘In many ways, this felt like the 2011 World Cup group match against Wales, and also like the 2011 quarter-final against Australia,’ the veteran scrumhalf said. ‘It was a very tough game that really could have gone either way. Wales were pushing the boundary at the breakdown and we couldn’t get quick ball.

‘I told the guys to keep going, to hang in there. Then, around the 60-minute mark, I noticed that the Wales players were starting to tire. They were trying to slow the game down. I told the guys to lift the tempo. I thought we would have an opportunity at the end.

‘We had trained that move during the week, but I never could have expected that kind of pass from Duane. To throw that pass under such pressure … that just shows what a big-match player Duane is.’

Wales coach Warren Gatland said the move was similar to the one used by Argentina against South Africa in Durban this past August. The Pumas used an 8-9-11 move off the back of the scrum that culminated in a score for Juan Imhoff.

Gatland also felt that Bryan Habana may have been offside in the passage of play that preceded the decisive scrum of Saturday's quarter-final. Habana flew up quickly to shut down Lloyd Williams and win the scrum for his side. If referee Wayne Barnes had penalised Habana at that point, the Boks would not have had an opportunity to set a scrum and win the game.

Meyer, however, preferred to focus on that inspired play and a result that will see the Boks competing in the World Cup semi-final at Twickenham next week.

‘I was pleased to see the players staying in the contest right until the end,’ he said. ‘I picked one of my strongest bench combinations ever. I knew the reserves would make a difference late in the second half, especially since Wales had played a tough game against Australia last week. And then that try was pure genius.

‘There’s no reason why we can’t win the World Cup from here. I really hope people keep writing us off, because it seems to work,’ he added. ‘Hopefully we can recover quickly after what was a very physical clash against Wales. It’s also been tough on the guys mentally, as we’ve been in a must-win situation since that loss to Japan.’

Lock Lood de Jager is the only injury concern at this stage. De Jager sustained a thigh injury early in the contest against Wales, but managed to play on. The Boks will provide an update on De Jager’s condition, as well as the health of the rest of the squad, on Sunday.

Photo: Paul Gilham/Getty Images

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Jon Cardinelli