Cape Town – Renowned for his patient devotion to systems and continuity, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is nervous about the length of time he will be disconnected from his players in the 2015 World Cup year.
It is an understandable concern because the structure of the southern hemisphere season alters quite markedly next year in anticipation of the English-staged RWC in September and October.
Meyer would usually have several weeks in the traditional June Test window to get the cream of Super Rugby franchise players – plus those chosen stars who ply their trade for clubs abroad – into the Bok way of doing things, and then reconvene not much more than a month later for the Castle Rugby Championship.
But next year there will be no Tests in June, leaving three matches in a 50-percent reduced Championship – plus one extra, non-tournament game expected be a second clash against Argentina – as the only Bok activity ahead of the World Cup.
It will mean that virtually the entire first half of the calendar year will see his charges rooted to their franchises as Super Rugby has a rare, uninterrupted campaign.
“It does worry me a bit that next year there’s no incoming tour, so it’s Super Rugby and then straight into the Championship and the additional, unofficial fixture,” Meyer told Sport24.
“Then your next game is in the World Cup, so you only have those four games to prepare -- there’s not a lot of time, so we have to plan well.
“I’ve had meetings with the franchises (about next year) and they’ve been great in looking at ways of helping the national coach going forward. I’m thankful for what the franchises have done so far, and understand the pressure they’re under as well.”
The Bok coach says he is determined that his charges reproduce this year, and beyond it, the sort of vibrancy in their play that was a hallmark of 2013, but says much of the confidence to do that comes from familiarity and significant time together as a unit.
“I definitely want us not just to play a tactical game, an arm-wrestle type of game --- you’ll win a lot of games (that way) but not every single one.
“I truly believe we’ve moved well forward with the way we want to attack and that takes time. It also means you can’t change your team every single week; you always want your best players available to get your opportunity to work with them, and move on.
“What is frustrating, or should I say difficult in a sense, is that we played some great rugby last year; the leap we made from year one to year two was amazing, to me ... but then it’s really tough because you start right from scratch at the start (of a new international season).
“You have to go back to the basics; from there you develop continuity and earn the ability to play with more freedom.
“You can’t play with that freedom if the basics aren’t in place. Just when you feel you’re there, you don’t see the guys for five months -- my concern in World Cup year is that you’re not going to see the players for maybe six months.”
The Boks’ last fixture of their 14 in 2014 is against Wales
in Cardiff on November 29; it is thereafter that Meyer’s international players
disperse for an unusual length of time ...
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