It’s about time

2012-01-28 00:00

THIS was no surprise party, but exactly four years after being snubbed by the South African Rugby Union an emotional Heyneke Meyer said yesterday that he was humbled and honoured to be appointed the new Springbok coach.

It was early in 2008 that Meyer fell victim to political engineering and Peter de Villiers was appointed ahead of him as Jake White’s successor.

But yesterday it was De Villiers who was out in the cold and Meyer was named “the best coach in South Africa” by Saru president Regan Hoskins in Cape Town.

The Blue Bulls had been party poopers when they pre-empted yesterday’s big announcement with a press release on Wednesday which confirmed that Meyer had been offered the Bok coaching job.

Still, there was no lack of interest in either yesterday’s media briefing or the views of the new coach who was clearly overwhelmed at finally realising his dream.

Meyer, facing questions from the floor, was immediately made aware of the balancing act he will have to perform between transformation and building a winning team. But he said he was ready for the challenge.

“I realise it is a huge responsibility to represent the whole of the nation. But I’m ready and looking forward to the challenge and intend making a difference to the lives of the people of our country.”

Meyer, appointed for four years (until the World Cup in England in 2015), said his goal was to turn the Springboks into the best team in the world, but added that he needed the support of all South Africans.

He would not be drawn on what style of rugby the Springboks would play.

“There are only two types of rugby, winning and losing. I only want the Springboks to play the first.

“The way we play will differ from week to week. I won’t have a fixed playing pattern. I’ll look at our strengths and the weaknesses of the opponents and formulate a game plan accordingly.”

Saru CEO Jurie Roux said that Meyer’s appointment was the culmination of a thorough process during which the best candidates were evaluated.

“The brief was to find the best coach for the Springboks and we head-hunted Heyneke,” he added.

He said that Meyer was contracted to the Blue Bulls, but would exercise his exit clause..

“Very few people can resist the call when your country says it needs you,” said Roux. “The Springboks are the heartbeat of rugby in South Africa and it was paramount to get the best possible candidate to coach the team going forward.”

Meyer’s support staff will only be named in the weeks ahead.

“We want the very best,” said Meyer, “and that means they will probably be contracted somewhere and we will have to negotiate.”

The new coach, when it was suggested he would consider overseas-based players, said that he would do everything possible to choose the best team with the aim of winning every Test.

The first of three Tests against England takes place in June and Meyer said he would not be rushed into naming a new Bok captain to take over from John Smit.

“I want to give everybody out there a fair chance,” adding that his captain would have to be a man of character.

He said he would travel extensively to the different provinces to meet with coaches and players.

“I want to get to know those people who can contribute. Every player out there has the same opportunity and I have to do what’s best for the team.”

He said that he had been involved in recruiting young players for the Bulls in recent years and was staggered at the available talent.”

“But I won’t be handing out Springbok jerseys, and players will have to prove themselves in Super Rugby.

“We have to put the right structures in place to nurture that talent. If you get that process right, within a few years we can be the strongest nation in the world. Without being arrogant, that’s where we belong.”

He paid tribute to his predecessor De Villiers, particularly for his work in taking the Springboks to the people.

Meyer coached the Bulls when they won the Super 14 trophy in 2007 and took them to Currie Cup titles in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006 (shared).

He has been involved at Springbok level, serving as assistant coach to both Nick Mallett and Harry Viljoen.

Hoskins said Meyer had received unanimous support from the general and the executive councils of SARU prior to yesterday’s announcement.

“The Springboks are Saru’s top priority,” Hoskins said. “Heyneke’s coaching pedigree is second to none in South Africa. He will be an asset to the Boks and South African rugby in general.”

It has taken Saru four years to finally make the announcement, but Heyneke Meyer would surely agree that it is better late than never.

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