Heyneke Meyer has done his case no favours. South Africa failed in its final Test of the year going down 12-6 to Wales in Cardiff at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday. The slumberous Springboks ended 2014 on a low going down to what was hardly a dominant Dragons performance.
The Welsh were bad and the Boks were worse. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? In 2014, South Africa were often bad but Argentina were worse, England were worse and Italy were worse too. The boys are tired, I’m told. Really? Funny how New Zealand were not tired on their northern hemisphere tour! Oh, but wait. All Blacks coach Steven Hansen had the good sense to rest several of his stars for Tests the New Zealanders were going to win anyway.
So why did Meyer not rest his stars for the Italian affair, for example? Is the Bok coach under pressure to win at all costs? Or is that his own philosophy? I am quite sure that an inexperienced Springbok side littered with youngsters less than a year out from the Rugby World Cup would have been more than happy to put their hands up and show the coach what they can do in Padova.
The truth is that in Nelspruit Wales should have beaten South Africa and the hosts got out of jail on that occasion to win 31-30. Meyer admitted as much in the aftermath. In Salta, the South Africans got themselves out of the electric chair after trailing by 20 points with about the same in minutes remaining on the clock. But there would be no presidential pardon in Cardiff when Meyer’s men got exactly what they deserved for an insipid display.
The Boks lost four Tests in 2014; the worst record to date under Meyer. They look short of ideas and only really played well in one Test all year and that was when they displayed a willingness to run the ball against the Kiwis at Ellis Park. That Francois Hougaard try has even been awarded the Try of the Year accolade. So why insist on the old rolling mauls strategy on every other weekend?
The knee injury to Jean De Villiers is a certain blow to the side to boot. Now will those open the door to an exciting youngster, an experienced campaigner who has been overlooked or will Meyer do what he does so well and call an old man out of retirement? Perhaps De Wet Barry or Marius Joubert might fancy one last dance in the green and gold.
The South Africans will be in the World Cup quarter-finals in 2015 but will they progress beyond that? Their likely opponents are England or Australia. Meyer might have to pay off an executioner if a semi-final berth is to be achieved.
In light of South Africa’s matrics having just completed their exams, I thought I’d score the coach on his performance this year as coach of the national rugby team. I want to say “fail” but 10 wins out of 14 cannot be interpreted as such by any standards so I shall give him with a generous D.