Heyneke Meyer might just be one of the worst coaches the Springboks have had in the modern era. Now that I have that out of the way, let me start by saying that the myth of Springbok superiority in rugby has been grossly overstated for many years now.
It is true that the Springboks were once on par with New Zealand, but that was mostly 1900-1950, and 1967-1980, and with the exception of 1998 has been nowhere to be found in the professional era, which started post 1992.
Since 1992 the Springboks have won only 61.5% of their games, versus the 80.2% of the All Blacks, and the 64.9% of the Wallabies. And in that time we’ve had the following coaches:1992: John Williams – P5 / W1 – Win Rate 20%
1993-1994: Ian McIntosh – P12 / W4 – Win Rate 33%
1994-1995: Kitch Christie – P14 / W14 – Win Rate 100%
1996: Andre Markgraaff – P13 / W8 – Win Rate 61%
1997: Carel du Plessis – P8 / W3 – Win Rate 37%
1997-1999: Nick Mallett – P38 / W27 – Win Rate 71%
2000-2001: Harry Viljoen – P15 / W8 – Win Rate 53%
2002-2003: Rudolph Straeuli – P23 / W12 – Win Rate 52%
2004-2007: Jake White – P54 / W36 – Win Rate 66%
2008-2011: Peter de Villiers – P48 / W30 – Win Rate 62%
2012: Heyneke Meyer – P9 / W4 – Win Rate 44%
As you can see, this is mostly a picture of mediocrity. It is generally accepted that, considering the number of games they were in charge for, Nick Mallet is the most successful rugby coach that South Africa has ever had, and Rudolph Straeuli the worst. So how does Heyneke Meyer compare to the coaches we’ve had since Nick Mallet? Badly, that’s how. Taking into account their first 9 games, here’s how the various coaches fared.Nick Mallet - P9 / W9 - 100% Win rate
Rudolph Straeuli - P9 / W5 - 55.5% Win rate
Jake White - P9 / W7 - 77.7% Win rate
Pieter de Villiers - P9 / W5 - 55.5% Win rate
Heyneke Meyer – P9 / W4 – 44% Win Rate
But that’s not all; two of these coaches (Nick Mallet and Jake White) won the Tri Nations in their first year in charge as coach, and they did it while building teams almost from scratch. All of them had highlights in their first 9 tests. Mallet destroyed France 52-10 in Paris, Scotland 68-10, Ireland 33-0, Wales 96-13 and England 18-0.
Straeuli roughed up Argentina 49-29 and demolished Samoa 60-18. Jake White’s Boks bashed Ireland 31-17, Wales 53-18 and beat New Zealand in a very memorable and high scoring 40-26 game in Johannesburg. Pieter de Villiers gave us 26-0 against Italy, 63-9 against Argentina and beat New Zealand at home for the first time in nearly a decade.
What has Heyneke Meyer’s first 9 tests given us? The first time we failed to beat England since 2006, ending a 9 game winning streak against them. The first ever draw against Argentina. A humiliating 32-16 loss against New Zealand in our own back yard.
One good game against an already imploding Australian side. A 44% winning rate. Even Rudolph Straeuli, considered by many the worst coach we’ve ever had, outperformed Meyer.
This is incredibly sad for many reasons, but mostly because of the proud tradition that Springbok rugby used to have. See, while our dominance may have been overstated, it took New Zealand until 1996 to win their first series here. And until the end of 1999 the books were evenly balanced, both of us having won 24 games against the other. In 1937 the Springboks toured New Zealand and beat them 2-1 in a series in New Zealand.
In 1949 they toured South Africa and lost the series 4-0. As political unrest enveloped the country and we became more and more isolated the opportunities got less and results worse, but between 1967 and 1980 the Boks played the Blacks 8 times, winning 6 of the games and losing just 2. New Zealand vs South Africa was considered the unofficial world cup.
Unfortunately those days are gone, and with Meyer at the helm, we might not see them soon, if ever again. Meyer seems quite pleased with himself, always pointing out that his charges are supposedly improving. He said that the All Black’s running style of rugby only works in movies, called the Boks underdogs, and even points out that we’ve gone from number 4 to number 2 on the IRB rankings, like that was something he accomplished.
The Boks have 3 tests remaining for the year, and even if they win all 3 it will put Heyneke Meyer’s win rate at 58%. We can, therefore, already compare his first year with that of other coaches, and it would look as follows. I’ve only included coaches who coached more than 10 games in their first 12 months.
Kitch Christie – P12 / W12 – 100%
Andre Markgraaff – P13 / W8 – 61%
Nick Mallett – P13 / W13 – 100%
Harry Viljoen – P11 / W6 – 54.5%
Rudolph Straeuli – P11 / W5 – 45.5%
Jake White – P13 / W9 – 69.2%
Pieter de Villiers – P13 /W9 – 69.2%
Heyneke Meyer – P12 / W7 – 58.3%
Looked at it this way, Heyneke Meyer’s first year will likely be the 3rd worst in the modern era. Sub 60% win rates simply isn’t good enough for the Springboks, I’m sorry.
We need a coach that strives for excellence and recognizes South Africa’s proud history. One that wants to return to the days of yore when the All Blacks and Springboks were deadly enemies and it was the only game that mattered. Meyer is clearly not that man.