Heyneke Meyer insists the Springboks can still win the World Cup despite their last-place finish in the Rugby Championship, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Boks have faced plenty of criticism since their first-ever loss to Argentina last Saturday, and it was telling that the Bok coach started Wednesday’s team announcement press conference with a brief prepared statement.
‘I know there is a lot of criticism, I know it’s not good enough. I understand where the public is coming from and we’re not going to make any excuses. We have to fix it, it’s unacceptable, there’s a lot of negativity that I understand. But keeping my integrity is more important than just winning, I truly still believe we can win the World Cup, we as a team and myself will do whatever possible to make the country proud. We know it will be a tough road, but we are fully committed.’
Despite the team’s recent run of poor results, a report on Wednesday suggested Meyer was in line to extend his stay as Bok coach until 2019, but he remained non-committal when the question arose at the press conference in Durban.
‘I would love to comment on that … I’ve said I want to serve and make a difference and that’s what I want to do. If you ask the guy on the street, I’m only making a difference in a negative way,’ he added with a laugh.
‘But the only thing as a Bok coach is that you know every other guy who has gone before you has gone through this at some point as well. For me, I just worry about the next four minutes, not the next four years. I will just go back out there and do whatever it takes to win, that’s my job, and I believe we can turn it around. I’ve always been proud to coach the Boks, it’s the biggest achievement in my life.
‘I just want to serve, I love this country and our people, and I really believe sport has the power to unite. I believe this team can go places. Where we have made a huge difference is that a lot of players have signed to stay on longer [in South Africa], the franchises have supported us well, and if we put the right systems in place and we all work together, then I think we can be invincible as a team. The Springbok position has never been about me, but I’m willing to fight to the end.'
Meyer said he felt it had been a character-building period for the Boks.
‘You have to just keep your head up and prove you are good enough. I’ve been in this situation before, I’ve been written off and fired before. What has been difficult is that in an ideal world I’d have loved to have had a few friendlies and play the sort of rugby we’d want to impose at the World Cup. I know what it takes to win, but I’ve also lost a lot.
‘We’ve had close calls and decisions that could have gone either way. But we know we have to make our country proud, and win. There have been a lot of injured players, so we have had to give them some game time and allow them to get back to full fitness. It hasn’t been ideal, but I believe we can still win the World Cup, we just have to face up and fix it. In a sense the guys are a lot closer now, and we’ll see who stands together and is tough enough.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images