Bok coach still under All Black cloud

2013-12-01 10:00

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There’s a dark spot on Meyer’s good 2013 record.

Although media despatches on South Africa’s rugby year are universally positive, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer still has a black cloud hanging over him.

The Springboks’ first victory over France in France since 1997 put the seal on a season in which most commentators felt there had been a marked improvement on Meyer’s first year in charge in 2012.

The 19-10 win over France at the Stade de France was the Springboks’ 10th out of 12 tests this year, making the 2013 season statistically their most successful since 1998.

Including November 2012’s victories over Ireland, Scotland and England, the Boks have won 13 of their last 15 tests.

With a winning percentage of 83.33%, the 2013 season will rank with those of 1995, when the Boks won all their games and the Rugby World Cup on home soil, 1998 (11 from 12 for 91.76%) and 2007 (14 from 17 for 82.35%) as the best since South Africa’s readmission in 1992.

Meyer’s win record in the 24 tests he has been in charge improved to 70% and persuaded aficionados to concur that the studious coach is on the right track and that under him, the Springboks will be a real force at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.

All is well and good, but the statistics conceal a fact that Meyer himself will be acutely aware of – the fact that he has crossed swords with the All Blacks four times and lost four times.

In fact, since he took over in June last year, the former Blue Bulls mentor has lost only one other test – to the Wallabies.

The All Black class of 2013 completed a perfect 14 out of 14 season – the first 100% record achieved in the professional era – and their historians have dubbed them The Unbeatables and opened the debate over whether they may be the best New Zealand side ever.

That is something for the Kiwis to sort out but there is no doubt that the All Blacks’ supreme belief in their methods, complete trust in each other and unflinching confidence that, come what may, they will be able to win matches no matter how lost the cause – as it must have appeared when they were down 0-19 to Ireland.

Meyer is a man who respects and appreciates history and a glance at the all-time record will not sit comfortably with him.

The recent test at Ellis Park was not only the 50th since 1992 between rugby’s greatest rivals but also resulted in the All Blacks’ 50th victory in a rivalry that dates back to 1921.

The All Blacks have consistently run up bigger scores and got more tries than the Springboks, and, of the 11 coaches who have plotted their downfall in the modern era, only Nick Mallett can boast a positive record.

Although the Springboks enjoyed a lead in tests won when South Africa returned to international participation, the picture has been bleak since that day at Ellis Park in August 1992 – the Boks having been able to win just 14 of the 50 tests in what is now described as the professional era.

Mallett won four of the seven tests in which he was in charge against New Zealand and ironically the much-maligned Peter de Villiers, even though he eventually ended up in the red, had one of the best records – winning three tests in a row (a feat not accomplished since 1949) as the Boks won the Tri Nations in 2009 and registering South Africa’s first, and still only, victory at Carisbrook in Dunedin.

There is a saying in Springbok rugby that New Zealand represents a graveyard for coaches, but Meyer is determined that he will not be one of the many who have fallen foul of the “black magic”.

The Springboks’ record against the All Blacks

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