Heyneke heeds media

Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
Sport24 columnist Tank Lanning (File)
JJ Engelbrecht and Coenie Oosthuizen are going to be feeling particularly spare at the Bok training camp taking place in Stellenbosch in a few weeks’ time.

That they have been pulled from the Currie Cup while the likes of Handre Pollard, Trevor Nyakane, Oupa Mohoje and Lood de Jager are now asked to enter it is completely ludicrous.

As is the fact that players like Damien de Allende and Siya Kolisi, so obviously in need of game time right now, will be tanning a chop or two while their team-mates fight for the grand old dame of SA rugby.

Decisions quite clearly not made for rugby reasons, but in a board room where the provinces - who pay the players’ salaries, and rightfully want their pound of flesh - would have been squealing like stuck pigs. The end result, because we do not have central contracting which would allow sensible calls to be made based on specific player circumstances, is that the best SARU could do was negotiate a blanket ban on all their contracted players.

It’s a bloody laughable situation and further proof of how badly structured rugby is in South Africa. EXCO’s and Governing Bodies are made up of clubs and unions that fight not for the good of rugby, but for their piece of the pie.

But away from the Currie Cup, and quick look back at the Rugby Championship, where All Black coach Steve Hansen suggests that we all get off Heyneke Meyer's back now that the Boks have beaten his side. Fully aware of the pressure a national coach of a rugby mad nation gets put under, one can perhaps understand where Hansen’s comment comes from. But I believe us fans and media have played a role in the Boks' success.

A naturally conservative fellow, I wonder if and when Meyer would have made the following calls without the pressure of the fans and media:

· Playing Willie le Roux ahead of his original go to man Zane Kirchner;

· Playing Handre Pollard ahead of Morne Steyn;

· Playing a more ball in hand game instead of his “Structure the unstructured” kick and chase game;

· Playing a fetcher. Yes the country would like to see more of Heinrich Brussow, but he did bring in Francois Louw to balance the loose trio. Something not on his original plan;

· Dropping the “Coenie Oosthuizen at tighthead” experiment. My word, he was intent on this plan working out;

· Dropping Gurthro Steenkamp and going with exciting young specialist props on the bench.

Injuries have also played their part in guiding the national coach. Mohoje now looks the part, but Meyer went old school in Juan Smith first. The coach says he is happy with depth at scrumhalf, but would he have even had a look at Francois Hougaard or Cobus Reinach had his boys Fourie du Preez and Ruan Pienaar not got injured?

Do not get me wrong. I think Heyneke Meyer is an astute man with an exceptional rugby brain, and he deserves huge credit for what he has done with the Boks. In fact, I see it as a massive positive that he has been big enough to take heed of the criticism in the media, and use it as part of how he critiques the side. It shows a certain lack of arrogance that some coaches are prone to.

The media come in for stick for being too critical, especially when the team is doing well. And perhaps we are. But we scribes lucky enough to be allowed to comment on the game, often using sentiment picked up from the public, offer an alternate view. A view, depending from when it comes of course, that not only keeps the Bok management team on their toes, but also from becoming too insular.

Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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