Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said he was proud of the way in which his team turned their Rugby World Cup campaign around to claim the bronze medal after beating Argentina by 24-13 in London on Friday evening. The Boks scored two tries to the one of the Pumas, with JP Pietersen and Eben Etzebeth dotting down. Handré Pollard added four penalty goals and a conversion in a match where the Argentines enjoyed the lions’ share of possession and territorial advantage and forced the South Africans to spend most of the time on defence.
Meyer reiterated that finishing third will never be acceptable for the Springboks but that he was proud of his team’s efforts after they lost in the opening round to Japan: ‘I’ve said that only a win is good enough for me and my team. But I’m very proud of the way in which we came back into the tournament after losing to Japan. To turn things around after the first game, with your two captains out injured, and to still come as close as we did in the end, speaks of character. It’s good to be in this position tonight and to have claimed the bronze medal, but we would still have preferred to play in the final. That was what we were aiming for. What will stand out for me about this tournament is the amazing support we received from the start, right until the end. Everywhere we went in the UK but also from back home in South Africa, people stood by us and we can’t thank them enough. This has been an amazing tournament, and we’re a group of proud South Africans to be a part of it.’
Commenting on the game, Meyer lauded his team’s defence, especially in the second half, when the South Americans came with a big onslaught: ‘I thought our impact players made a big difference and our defence was great. We made a lot of tackles and we managed to keep them out right until that try in injury time, which showed the guys really put their bodies on the line.’ When asked about the role of the senior players in the squad, some of whom will retire from international rugby, Meyer said: ‘They really put up their hands and led this team very well after the defeat in week one, and I can’t praise them enough. But I’m also massively excited about the talented youngster that came through. They were mentored by the older players and in my opinion we probably have some of the best young players in the world – we can be invincible if we can keep them together, keep on working hard and ensure our systems are in place.’
Victor Matfield, who captained the Springboks in his last Test, says he is not sorry that he decided to come out of retirement in 2014: ‘After what I’ve experienced in the last seven weeks with this team, coming back was definitely worth it. After the defeat against Japan, we built a brotherhood in this team that is just fantastic. We were one penalty away from playing in the final. We really wanted to be there but the guys picked themselves up this week against a fantastic Argentinean team and we shut them out – in the end I think we won comfortably.’
Photo credit: Scott Heavey/Getty Images for England Rugby 2015