Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Saturday expressed his satisfaction with the team’s Rugby World Cup preparations, despite a late defeat by New Zealand in Johannesburg. The visiting All Blacks scored a late try to deny the Springboks a consecutive win at this venue, but Meyer felt that the result could have gone either way. The coach, however, congratulated New Zealand on their win.
Meyer says: ‘I expected the match to be as tight as this. I thought we might have the luck with a TMO call in the second half, but like last weekend, it went against us. It is part of rugby, but I really thought we did enough to score there. That would have eased the pressure on us in the last couple of minutes as we would have had a ten point margin.’ Meyer lamented the number of injuries that dogged his team in the match. All of Jannie Du Plessis, Vincent Koch, Lood De Jager and Francois Louw were invalided off to disrupt the Springbok pack and resulted in uncontested scrums being called by the referee, Jerome Garces.
The Bok boss says: ‘I support his call as both our tightheads were injured and the law has to be followed, as it is there to protect the players. It did come at a bad time for us though, as we were really scrumming well. We also lost Francois Louw at a crucial time, and we dominated the breakdowns at that stage.’ Meyer named a number of suspected injuries: ‘Jannie has a knee injury, Flo (Francois Louw) injured a shoulder and Vincent and Warren (Whiteley) probably have broken ribs. This resulted in us having to use the bench much earlier than we wanted, and even using Adriaan Strauss as a flanker. I am happy that our plans worked well, but when the injuries struck, we lost too much momentum.’
Meyer praised the return of Heinrich Brüssow and the captaincy of Schalk Burger, as well as the strong performances from younger players such as Jesse Kriel: ‘Lood was also really good, considering that it is only his second game of rugby in a long time. He had big shoes to fill in calling the lineouts, and when he left the field, we lost some shape. We have some locks like Victor (Matfield) and Pieter Steph Du Toit coming back, so I am pleased about that.’
Meyer believes the mental strength and attitude of the squad bodes well for Rugby World Cup: ‘The guys know they can beat anyone. We came within inches of beating both the Wallabies and All Blacks and that is a massive improvement if you considered where we were just after the Vodacom Super Rugby competition. I know we are inches away from clicking. We produced some brilliant attack at times.’ The coach admitted that the defeat stung: ‘We want to make the nation proud and need to win in order to do that. But I am pleased that we are progressing very well and it will be a very fit and strong squad of 31 that will travel to England.’
Springbok captain Schalk Burger said the defeat was hard to swallow, as the team had not capitalised on the numerous opportunities they created: ‘It is not easy to beat the All Blacks and they showed why tonight. They used a limited number of chances well, and we did not. But there are many positives as well, and we will keep on working.’ The squad will re-assembles in Durban on Sunday.