At 40, former Bulls’ coach Heyneke Meyer gave up coaching for a corporate career after controversially not getting the Springbok job. In his first interview since bitterly quitting rugby, Meyer spoke to Simnikiwe Xabanisa of The Times on a wide range of issues.
His Job At Usn (A Sports Nutirion Supplement Company)
I wanted to be part of a place where their values were more or less the same as mine. I had discussed it with them and CEO Albie Geldenhuys said if I didn’t get the Bok job maybe I could work with them. The appeal for me is that it’s also in the sports industry. USN is a company in which I can live my dream and also be part of a bigger dream. I’m a commercial director, I look after all the operational functions like the sales team, distribution and warehousing. I’m involved with getting new products going. I’m also involved with the education of what to take and what not to take. Albie also brought me in to deal with the vision of the company because that’s always been my strength in rugby, so I’m involved in putting in structures. I’ve just appointed some big names in the business world to take the company to the next level.
His Crusaders Jersey
It was very humbling of them to do that for me. They sent me a jersey after the Super 14 last year but it got lost, so when they came over they tried to present me with a jersey because they said the Bulls were the toughest team they’d ever played. But I wasn’t around. I was on a work course so I asked them to present it to (Bulls’ team manager) Ian Schwartz. We’ve always been on good terms and it’s an honour for me that they gave me their jersey.
Going Back to Coaching
I almost joined a club overseas and I had a lot of players who wanted to follow me. But it didn’t work out and then I had to go back on my word. It’s the same thing now with the people I’ve appointed at USN. They’re quality people and they’re loyal to me so I don’t want to move now. I want to make a success of USN and take it worldwide. Obviously, money-wise it’s tough because there’s huge money out there now, especially overseas. Money’s always important but it’s more important for me to enjoy myself and make a difference. I might come back in future but not in the short term.
What He Misses About Rugby
You don’t coach to win trophies or money. I always felt you were there to serve other people. The trophies you win are nice, but people don’t remember all that you win after a while. It’s about adding value and making a difference in people’s lives, seeing a guy change as a person. I miss the pressure where you haven’t won for two or three games and you have to come back. We always started slowly at the Bulls so I miss the reaction of the players to those situations. You miss the adrenaline rush just before a game with 42000 people watching, and you feel like you’re almost in charge of their hopes. I don’t miss the interference from administrators and the general politics of rugby, though.
There was a year the Bulls won the schools’ rugby, the under-19s and the under-21s, the Amateur Cup, the women’s and the Currie Cup. We also won the Super 14, which in some ways, is harder for a South African side than winning the World Cup because you have everything against you. It’s always been the dream of South Africans to win the Super 14, and we did it. I was the Emerging Springbok coach at 30, I’ve been to the World Cup and two Tri-Nations as an assistant coach. The last thing for me was to be the Springbok coach, but it wasn’t meant to be. Although I would have loved to, I don’t need the Springbok job to validate my career. I know who I am and I actually like not being in the limelight. Being the Bok coach is not the be-all and end-all. I know there’s a lot more to me than being a coach.
The Disappointment Of Not Getting the Bok Job
I think Peter (de Villiers) was a good candidate and wish him the best of luck. I was disappointed though about the way in which it was handled. I wish people had been more open with me from the beginning. I was really disappointed because I felt with the foundation Jake had laid down by winning the World Cup I would have come in with some fresh ideas that might have helped take us to a new level and consistently win in places like New Zealand and Australia. I was disappointed because I knew it was the right time for me.
The Coaching Situation In SA
A lot of our coaches are sought after throughout the world but we don’t look after our own coaches. By saying that I mean there’s no courses for coaches in South Africa. That’s why I was interested in being a director of coaching because places like New Zealand, Australia and England have a business course for the coach, a man-management course and courses around certain areas. I can’t speak for myself but we shouldn’t have let guys like Nick Mallett, Jake White and Alan Solomons go.
The Experimental Law Variations
I was one of the few coaches who said they weren’t happy with the introduction of the new laws. I’ve always loved rugby for the fact that you could have a big, slow guy and a tiny guy but they could all play. I just feel we’re moving into a game like Rugby League, where you have 13 guys all of similar height and strength playing. We need athletes but we’re going into a game where you need 15 athletes. But I don’t think we should use the new laws as an excuse because rugby is still about winning the collisions and winning the technical and tactical battles, a great defence and playing to your strengths and attacking the opposition’s weaknesses. We can play the new rules if we get one or two things right. We kick too much down the throats of their back threes. I would like to see teams move the ball more until they have to come up, then roll a kick behind them where they have to turn and go back while you’re pressuring them.
The Bulls’ Title Defence
They’re a much better team than where they are at the moment. These things take time, a new coach coming in, a lot of the guys were on the end-of-year tour. They’ve probably lost one or two games they probably shouldn’t have, but they’re still a quality side.