Mind Games: Meyer’s story, in black and white

2014-09-08 13:45

If anyone ever picked a rod for his own back, it must be Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

Now in his third year in charge of the national rugby squad, and just more than a year away from the next rugby World Cup, Meyer has made some odd selections and arguably failed to re-build as he should have while being out of touch with the imperatives of the country he lives in.

When an associate of mine with good knowledge of rugby in the Eastern Cape asked me: “What on earth does Heyneke Meyer think he’s doing?” I had to confess to being as nonplussed as my inquisitor.

But I’m probably not as disconcerted as young Teboho Mohojé was when the latest Springbok side was announced to take on the Wallabies in Perth.

“Oupa” Mohojé was a surprise inclusion in Meyer’s first squad of the year on June 28. In the test against Scotland in Port Elizabeth, he became a fully fledged Springbok when he trotted on to the field in the 66th minute to replace Duane Vermeulen.

But the 16-odd minutes Mohojé spent on the field turned out to be the sum total of his game time.

Even though he continued to make the cut when the next squad was named last month for the ongoing Rugby Championship, Mohojé has not again been part of the match-day 23.

No sooner had the squad reassembled for the tests against Argentina than it was announced that Juan Smith, a fellow flanker, had been drafted into the squad. (Smith had resurrected a career seemingly halted by serious injury when he joined French club Toulon.)

Smith did not play in the test at Loftus but he was in for the next test in Salta, Argentina, setting in motion a sequence of events as bewildering as the Frans Steyn debacle.

Smith, one of many former Boks Meyer has been permitted to recall from overseas, did not have a good game. By his own admission, he was “vrot” (rotten).

The choice of Smith centred on his ability to play the “hit-up” role performed by big Willem Alberts but he failed to stand out in a match in which the Pumas forwards dominated the Bok pack.

Subsequent despatches revealed Smith had requested not to be considered for Australia and New Zealand “to work on his fitness”; and Warren Whiteley, a player not in that mould at all and who had been sent on a wild goose chase to Argentina, was back in the squad.

But last Saturday, Smith turned up in France and came off the bench for Toulon in their match against Racing Metro. Very strange indeed.

The question that has to be asked is why Meyer has Mohojé in the squad if he feels he can make no contribution to it or that he is not quite up to scratch.

Would it not be better to allow him to return to the Cheetahs to play in the Currie Cup and work on his shortcomings? Provided, of course, he was told what they are.

And if keeping Mohojé in the squad is considered good for his progress, then why does the same logic not apply to Siya Kolisi?

Kolisi made his debut last year and earned 10 caps coming on as a substitute. He was considered a good enough prospect to be awarded a Springbok contract. But this year, albeit that his form has taken a dip, he is not in the squad.

And what of S’bura Sithole? The Sharks outside centre did outstandingly in a position in which few excel in Super Rugby and was included in the first national squad of the year.

But when a vacancy arose in the No 13 slot, Damian de Allende was brought in, out of position and in spite of a long lay-off for injury.

Others like Lwazi Mvovo and Trevor Nyakane must also wonder whether they’re window dressing or whether Meyer has a real purpose for them.

Protestations on social media attest to the fact that the coach has not won many friends among black rugby fans.

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