Heyneke chats to Sport24

Cape Town - In a scoop for Sport24, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer took time out of his busy schedule to answer YOUR questions.

He talks pressure, player management and whether he’d ever select Fourie du Preez at flyhalf...

Rich Pentecost asked: Do you feel under more pressure to win at home than away?

Heyneke Meyer: When the Springboks play, there is always pressure to win; it doesn’t matter where we are. But we really like to make our country proud and that’s why it’s always better to play in South Africa, in front of our own fans where we can hopefully make a bigger difference than when we are overseas.

Christo van Wyk asked: When it comes to post match analysis, how much focus is placed on analysing individual contributions - good or bad - and discussing it with the players in an open or closed forum?

Heyneke Meyer: We literally analyse everything, but always prefer to look ahead to the next game instead of dwelling too much on the previous one. On a Monday, I lead a thorough review of the previous match with the entire squad. On Tuesdays, the assistant coaches and our specialist coaching consultants break up all areas of the game – set-piece, defence, attack, breakdowns, kicking and so on – and discuss it in depth with the players in smaller groups. All of these discussions are also done with an eye to the next game. We draw up statistics in all areas of the game and look for trends which we use to plan ahead. We have good, open communication channels in the team and my door is always open to any squad member to discuss any topic they wish. I’ve always said that as a coach I want to treat the players as I would like other people to treat my sons.

Andrzej Kowalski asked: The Wallabies and All Blacks use the 10 as the guy who controls the game, whereas the Boks have tended to use the 9. Owing to Fourie du Preez's kicking game and incredible vision, would you ever consider selecting him at flyhalf?

Heyneke Meyer: Even though Fourie is a magical player with superb skills and vision, I think scrumhalf is his best and only position and as such, I would not move him. But most good 9s also make good 10s, players such as Ruan Pienaar and many of the French scrumhalves. On attack though, you will often see Fourie play “flyhalf”, especially when we go wide and the wings double up as “scrumhalves”.

Herman Mostert asked: It continues to puzzle me why you and other coaches would substitute a player a few minutes before the end of a Test. Does it have any impact on the game at all? Doesn’t it cheapen the Bok jersey in giving away a Test cap for a matter of seconds?

Heyneke Meyer: There are various of reasons players get substituted during a match: injury, injury-prevention and player welfare being the main ones. Statistically, most injuries occur in the final 10 minutes of every match. Towards the end of the game, I might get a message from our team doctor that a certain player has, for instance, a tight hamstring. I would rather then replace him than run the risk of losing him for six weeks. But players also get tired and as games have been won and lost in the final seconds in the past, it’s important to have as many fresh players as possible on the field, at all times. That extra sharpness from a fresh player can make a difference right at the death, so mostly I don’t look at the clock when making substitutions. I rather make the call on what’s best for the team. We’ve been very fortunate with injuries this year and I’ve been able to stick to a core of players, so we’ve not selected too many in 2013. In think we’ve only used 30 players in our eight Tests this year.

Bruce asked: Do you believe this year’s Rugby Championship and end-of-year tour will have any bearing on the 2015 Rugby World Cup?

Heyneke Meyer: It will definitely have a bearing, but the influence won’t be massive. I believe in terms of mental toughness and during the Rugby Championship or end-of-year tour to the northern hemisphere. Players get put in pressure situations, on and off the field and it’s good to see how they react. From our point of view, getting the players more used to the conditions in the UK is also very important, as that is where the 2015 RWC will be played. And the Rugby Championship is always massively important, because it’s where you test your mental strength against the best teams in the world during an unrelenting eight weeks of top-level Test match rugby.

Abel Stolz asked: I’ve noticed the Boks have placed specific attention on the rucks this season. Will your coaching team continue to work closely with the provinces in order to develop further knowledge and expertise?

Heyneke Meyer: That is the plan, yes. I think the hard work we’ve put into the breakdown this year has bore fruit and the work done by all the coaches involved needs to be lauded. We’ve stolen more ball on the ground than ever before and the great thing is that all players – not only the openside flanker – can now make the right decision to go for the ball and steal it. The players have also been very good in terms of taking in that information and making it work. However, it’s a work in progress and we’ll continue concentrating on this very important aspect of the game. Like we’ve done this year, we’re planning a road trip to all the franchises next year, where we work with their coaches. It’s been great to work with them and I have to thank the provinces for their openness and willingness to work with us – ultimately, it will lead to a stronger game in South Africa.

Gary asked: In my opinion, Jannie du Plessis is easily the best tighthead in SA. What is your strategy to manage his workload - is rotation a possibility?  And which tightheads are next in line?

Heyneke Meyer: I’ve said before that I don’t think we should be managing players’ workloads at the Springboks – that needs to be done at their franchises. But I know it’s very difficult to do that. The Sharks did rotate Jannie and Wiehahn Herbst a bit this year, and with Lourens Adriaanse joining them from next year, it will only improve their depth in this very important position, which will hopefully allow them to rotate the players even more. Guys like Lourens and Coenie Oosthuizen have come on in leaps and bounds this year, while we also rate Frans Malherbe highly. Last season, before his injury, Pat Cilliers also played very well and I hope he can regain that form.

Jaco Bester asked: With the RWC in mind, will Jean de Villiers still be playing for and captaining the side? If not, why not pair Jan Serfontein and JJ Engelbrecht in the midfield from now on?

Heyneke Meyer: Jean is vitally important in our team and we’ll do everything in our power to ensure he makes it all the way to RWC 2015. While Jean is currently playing the best rugby of his career, he knows that I’m loyal to performance and that no player’s place to England in 2015 is guaranteed. That said, he’s a massive asset to this team and probably one of the best captains I’ve ever worked with.

Raymond Silinga asked: If players could still represent more than one country, which current or past forward and backline player wouldn’t you mind in the slightest being available for selection?

Heyneke Meyer: To be honest, I’m very privileged to be working with the best players in South Africa and the world at the moment, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. In an ideal world, it would be superb if all our best players were playing in SA and available to the Boks all the time, but I know it’s not always the case. To name a few, it would’ve been nice to be able to select players like Jaque Fourie, Andries Bekker and Ryan Kankowski, for instance.


Tiaan Strauss

John Mitchell

David Campese

Dean Furman

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