Just after South Africa’s disastrous defeat to Japan at the Rugby World Cup I called for the head of Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer. All I am doing this week is repeating that call but with some added ammunition. About a month ago I pointed out that Meyer had lost five of his last six Tests. As it stands he has lost six of the last 12. The former Bulls boss has also overseen first-ever defeats to the likes of Argentina and the Japanese as well as embarrassing defeats to Ireland and Wales, not to mention a couple of get-out-of-jail wins against the latter. The Bok boss has not won the Rugby Championship or the Rugby World Cup plus he has beaten New Zealand just once in eight attempts. That alone should be enough to ensure the man does not receive a fresh contract from the South African Rugby Union (Saru). However the rumour mill suggests Saru offered the beleaguered coach a new R5 million per annum deal before the World Cup even started. Unfathomable.
But Meyer has come out swinging like never before. Last weekend he told Afrikaans newspaper Rapport: ‘I get unbelievable support from our politicians. I received SMSes from leading ANC members saying, “Well done, we are proud of you”. People who question my ability as coach, should look in the mirror and ask themselves if what they are doing and saying are for the right reasons. I feel the team did well and is transformed. I sleep well at night, and those guys (who criticise) have hidden agendas.’
To say Meyer has overlooked classy players of colour in favour of white players is one thing, but let us not forget he has selected white players out of position to keep black players on the fringe. On what planet is Jesse Kriel a better wing than Lwazi Mvovo, or Pieter-Steph Du Toit a better flank than Siya Kolisi? Moreover why did Meyer take Kolisi, Mvovo and Rudy Paige to the World Cup. And outside of politics, why did Morne Steyn go to England? Meyer says he does not see colour and if he is telling the truth, then one wonders what exactly he does see.
I have often likened New Zealand and South Africa in rugby to Brazil and Italy in football. The kiwis and South Americans play the game in its purest and most beautiful form and often dominate and have the silverware to back it all up. The South Africans and Azzurri are often less easy on the eye but the trophy cabinet speaks for itself. Consider then that Meyer has not even been able to “win ugly” then where does this “unbelievable support from our politicians” come from? What does Meyer and/or Saru have on the SA government? Is there a third force at play?
Last week Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula issued a press statement saying: ‘Our boys in green and gold came to the IRB 2015 RWC representing a divided nation bickering over demographic representation and grappling with the necessary and inevitable perennial transformation debate. On the other hand, the All Blacks from New Zealand, our opponents had none of the above and that naturally gives them an edge over us.’ I am not bluffing. Those are the words of Fikile Mbalula although you would be forgiven for confusing him with AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel.
Meyer has also been something of a spin doctor during times of adversity. I shall leave you with his latest gem: ‘We didn’t do well in Super Rugby and had no momentum before the Rugby Championship, as well as very little preparation time. What is tough about the Rugby Championship is that we played the three best teams in the world and then two of them at the World Cup (New Zealand and Argentina).’
And here we all thought he had four years to prepare for the World Cup. But at least he is finally telling the truth by admitting that in the Rugby Championship his team ‘played the three best teams in the world.’ His team finished dead last.