Willie le Roux is testament to the fact that Heyneke Meyer amplifies a players' attacking potency, not detracts from it, writes RYAN VREDE.
I've grown tired of the rhetoric that seeks to paint Meyer as a force that draws all attacking skill from his players, particularly backline players. His detractors claim he creates kicking monsters, ones devoid of independent thought and action. What utter nonsense.
As a start, a kick, when the field situation and opposition demands, and is executed correctly, can be a wonderfully creative option. Beauty is subjective, and its definition in a rugby context extends beyond a sweeping, running manoeuvre featuring deft sidesteps and offloads. Certainly those things are desirable, but their absence or rare exhibition isn't indicative of a lack of creativity, imagination or ambition.
Meyer's players don't lack these skills and he doesn't lack the skill to coach teams to play in this manner. He opts to maximise other primary strengths and reduces the risk for defeat by opting to take more risks in the opposition's half than in his. Meyer continues to evolve his approach, but not at the expense of his side's potential to win.
His formula is proven. His champion Bulls teams, and I include the sides that thrived post his departure from the franchise first in 2007, were consistently prolific scorers. Bryan Habana built his reputation as one of the game's best wingers under Meyer's watch and within similar attacking structures the Springboks are employing now. It is no coincidence that his try-scoring form returned under Meyer after a woeful period with Peter de Villiers in charge.
And it is no surprise that Le Roux has emerged as the Springboks' primary attacking threat in the backline with Meyer at the helm. Le Roux isn't given a licence to dazzle. This is a good thing. Free rein would undermine his and the team's cause. Instead he is given freedom of expression within a framework. Meyer has added a tactical awareness to his game and has improved him as a tactical kicker. He is more for Meyer's tutelage, not less.
What we saw through his excellent performance against Wales on Saturday was a player with a clearly defined role, one he understands and believes in, and a player high on the confidence gained from a coach who is completely invested in him.
I'm in no way trying to downplay Le Roux's role in his own success. His work ethic, talent, temperament, determination and rugby intelligence has crafted the player he is. The point I'm trying to make is a nuclear missile is useless in the hands of a man without the professional competency to launch it. Meyer knows the code and has pushed the right buttons. And Le Roux is not alone in benefiting in this way.
The Springboks scored an average of 3.9 tries per Test in 2013, the best record of all of the elite sides. They've started the 2014 Test season with a five-try rout of a good Wales side and there is potential for further attacking growth. They are side best placed to knock the All Blacks off their perch. These are reasons to celebrate.
As is the emergence of Le Roux as a player of outstanding attacking accomplishment. He hasn't become this version of himself by accident. Let's give Meyer his due and encourage him in his bid to extend his Le Roux-like influence to other members of his squad.
Photo: Anne Laing/HSM Images