Meyer happy to 'face' haka

Heyneke Meyer (Gallo Images)
Heyneke Meyer (Gallo Images)
Auckland - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is a passionate man, but nothing he has faced so far will prepare him for Saturday’s Rugby Championship showdown with New Zealand at Eden Park.

Meyer has spoken this week about this being the ultimate challenge of his career and while Saturday's encounter is nowhere near a final, it certainly is being treated like one.

Often criticised as a boring coach, Meyer has shown how much passion he has for the game, and especially the challenge of winning against the world champions.

His performances in the coaching box have raised eyebrows. He tends to get very emotional and excited when the Boks perform well, much to the amusement of fans!

And while he has apologised for his behaviour, Meyer certainly has nothing to feel sorry about. In a sport littered with poker-face coaches whose answers are sanitised, he is a breath of fresh air that the New Zealanders have embraced with open arms.

The coach has described the showdown with the All Blacks as a 'dream come true' - a true test of character and a real challenge and for once he is here with a Bok team that look like they are enjoying their game.

He raised a few eyebrows by telling the local media he will “face the haka” from the sideline as his team lines up in front of the New Zealanders, and has said being so passionate about the game helps him make good calls during the game from the coaches box.

“To me to play the All Blacks and be the Springbok coach is a dream come true and an honour. The history comes a long way and not to take anything away from Australia but this week I can see I don’t have to say anything to the guys, they know they are in for the battle of their lives,” Meyer explains.

“South Africa against the All Blacks is the ultimate final in world rugby. While this is not a final, it is just one more step in our journey, it is really special. This is the home of rugby, this is where you want to play, especially against an All Black team that is unbeatable. For me it will be a great occasion just going onto the field.

While Meyer and his coaching team will line up on the sideline during Saturday's anthems, the Bok management will stay on the sidelines for the haka, accepting the challenge as much as their players will.

“I did it last year as well, it was a great honour and I believe it is a sign of respect. I sometimes get crazy in the box and I’m embarrassed when I’m looking at it. I don’t believe they should film me, they should film the players.

“But then again I don’t believe you can make quality calls if you don’t get the atmosphere, feel the excitement and feel the pressure. That is why you almost feel you are on the field with the players and facing the mighty All Blacks with them.

“I’ll definitely stand there and get goose bumps. It is one of the great things of history and I love it.”

The Bok coach said a team that could challenge New Zealand was a childhood dream for him and said he was enjoying the intense build up to one of the most anticipated games of the year.

“It’s been great. As a coach you don’t always want to say the right things, because it comes across as a PR exercise. But I really love being in New Zealand. It’s great speaking to rugby people and they have embraced us.

“You can see the New Zealand public is also looking forward to a quality game, and that is what we want to give them. I’ve heard there are a lot of tickets sold but I take that as a compliment as well. Obviously people around here come to support New Zealand but it is great being in a rugby country.

“It is a childhood dream facing the All Blacks and facing the haka. I’m probably the only coach who stands on the touchline until they finish the haka and then move to the box. But that is what rugby is about, it is about the friendship and you can really feel the atmosphere."

To beat a side that is so consistent and good on their home turf won’t be easy, but it is safe to say that if the Boks display the same belief and confidence as they did in Brisbane, they will have a good shot.


New Zealand:

15 Israel Dagg, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Ma'a Nonu, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Daniel Carter, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (captain), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Brodie Retallick, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Tony Woodcock

Substitutes: 16 Keven Mealamu, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Charlie Faumuina, 19 Steven Luatua, 20 Matt Todd, 21 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 22 Beauden Barrett, 23 Charles Piutau

South Africa:

15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Willie le Roux, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Morné Steyn, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.

Substitutes: 16 Adriaan Strauss , 17 Gurthrö Steenkamp, 18 Coenie Oosthuizen, 19 Juandré Kruger, 20 Siya Kolisi, 21 Jano Vermaak, 22 Pat Lambie, 23 Jan Serfontein
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