Brighton: Did Heyneke nearly go?

Heyneke Meyer (Gallo)
Heyneke Meyer (Gallo)

London – The World Cup-opening events against Japan in Brighton seem light years away now for safely-installed quarterfinalists South Africa.

 In fact, the shock 34-32 defeat has only sat in the annals of rugby history for some 19 days.

Yet in the period since then, the Springbok bounce-back over the course of three consecutive wins has accumulated impressive statistical force, whatever you may wish to say about the calibre of their opponents in the pool phase.

In storming to the top of the group (a situation that cannot alter now), the Boks, post-Brighton, have compiled 19 tries with only one “against” – a long-range Scottish intercept event, to Tommy Seymour – and scored 144 points whilst leaking only 22.

Little wonder, then, that coach Heyneke Meyer cut a bullish and happy figure at the press conference following Wednesday’s 64-0 disposal of the United States at the Olympic Stadium here.

But he also dropped some revealing hints, it might be argued, about the extent of the turmoil that seemingly engulfed the Bok camp after their seismic shock on England’s south coast at the outset of RWC; remember that it followed a very poor lead-up to the tournament by the Boks as well.

When reasonably asked by a South African scribe on Wednesday night whether he had a preference of opponents for the quarter-final – it will be one of Wales or Australia – he said that would be “negative thinking”.

But he then added, to guffaws from many of the journalists present: “The only team I wouldn’t like to play is Japan.”

What followed, though, seemed full of delicious intrigue, even as he spoke with a broad grin and gave a knowing look to his captain alongside him, Fourie du Preez: “That almost cost me my ... er, well, we won’t go into that.”

It did seem to suggest that being a fly on the wall of the Bok camp after that Brighton embarrassment would have been a tantalising place, especially when you consider his pained suggestion after that match that some senior players didn’t stick fully to the intended template that day.

Did Meyer offer to quit? Did he threaten to do so? Were there even moves from above to instantly review his status?

All that we know at present is that the Bok camp seems an infinitely more harmonious -- not to mention freshly ambitious – place as the knockout “mountain” awaits.

It is a situation probably only aided by the popular arrival back in the set-up in an advisory and moral-support capacity of intended RWC captain Jean de Villiers.

Further up the line, a book is fair bet as likeliest source of in-depth information on what happened behind closed doors after the Japan loss ...

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing. Rob has attended the Bok pool phase of RWC 2015 to provide news and analysis for Sport24 readers.

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