Who’d like to be in Heyneke’s boots?

2015-09-16 06:00

HERE’S something that may surprise some. One newspaper column, as the kickoff of the Rugby World Cap draws ever nearer, has come up with some heartening statistics. Did you know that RWC records show that since re-entering the international rugby scene from isolation in 1995, the Springboks have the best overall success rate in the tournament?

From that date the figures show the Boks registering 25 wins from 29 matches. Furthermore Francois Pienaar’s Boks did it first time out that year after being allowed back into the rugby fold that memorable year.

However, before we get carried away, since then when South Africa beat New Zealand – courtesy of a Joel Stransky drop-goal in extra time – the Boks have not beaten either the Wallabies or the All Blacks in the World Cup.

No doubt one of the many cares coach, Heyneke Meyer, has on his mind as he marshals his troops in readiness for the first RWC appointment with Japan in Brighton next Saturday, is that very fact. Indeed there could well be no easy road for Meyer’s lads with the vagaries of the draw suggesting the South Africans may well see (always supposing they reach that stage) themselves facing first the Wallabies in the quarterfinals and the All Blacks the very next week in the semis.

It’s no easy job being the coach of a World Cup side. Right now, who by choice would be in Meyer’s rugby boots? Not many. One of the country’s major Sunday newspapers ran a lengthy, page dominating piece headlined, “Meyer has scuppered the Boks chances”. The writer clearly does not think much of the Bok coach’s skills – and attacks him from several viewpoints.

He accuses Meyer of favouring hometown Bulls players. He also attacks the selection of captain, Jean de Villiers, and vice-captain, Victor Matfield, among others, who are “past their best” and should be out in the paddock munching grass.

Why, the piece asks, has a player like Matfield, who officially retired a year ago be enticed back? Much the same, the writer alleges, can be said of Ruan Pienaar and Morne Steyn, Schalk Britz and Zane Kirchner.

The writer adds that Meyer “sees the world through blue-tinted spectacles”. Young skilful players like Lions captain, Warren Whiteley, Oupa Mohoje and Heinrich Brussow have been overlooked in favour of “big ball-carriers, like Adrian Strauss, Willem Alberts and Duane Vermeulen.”

On and on the diatribe goes: the likely favouring of Handre Pollard at flyhalf ahead of Pat Lambie. Interestingly, here’s a thought that the piece overlooked. If the Boks go all the way to the final what’s the bet Meyer’s choice at halfback will be old timers, Fourie du Preez and Morne Steyn? Personally, one feels that should such a situation arise, the experience of these old hands would make perfect sense.

So there you have it: sit tight for the next four weeks as this great drama unfolds. You know what they say Down Under about this thing known as sports warfare: “It’s truly tough in the trenches, mate!”

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