I feel inspired to defend Heyneke Meyer, inspired by some of the unendingly negative comments I’ve seen on various blogs. The more I see, the more compelled I feel to come to his defence. We’re South Africans, we live to support the Boks. The constant flow of unwarranted criticism leaves me feeling embarrassed about a section of our fans.
So here’s why I believe HM deserves our patience & support:
Let’s start by looking at the Bokke since Heyneke Meyer’s introduction as coach. HM inherited a team that had just lost it’s heart – virtually the entire core set of players and leaders in the team gone. Heyneke had to rebuild from the ground up.
Some critics hold the All Blacks up as the benchmark against which we should be measuring ourselves. Really? Steve Hansen inherited a World Cup winning team; experience and confidence oozing out of every department, still high on their own success. He stepped up from assistant coach, already armed with the knowledge about structures and players since 2004. The All Blacks have had a head start on us of 4 clear years. Let’s see Hansen inherit the issues that Meyer did… Fairly confident I do not need to harp on about central contracting and it benefits.
Meyer’s track record speaks for itself – he has been incredibly successful at club level. When he was in charge of the Bulls he was the most successful coach in Super Rugby and Currie Cup. Players who were coached by him made up the large majority of the 2007 World Cup winning team. Heyneke Meyer is a professional coach with an enviable CV and he certainly knows how to coach with a goal in mind.
I am reformed. I was, like many, a doubter, who believed that Meyer was ruining the Boks by using an outdated game plan. However, as 2013 reaches its conclusion, with the benefit of hindsight, I realise what he was doing. HM had no choice in the beginning but to start with an extremely defensive strategy. He had very few options at his disposal. He started with a simple game plan, to win ugly, achieve momentum and blood a very inexperienced side with a heart of the few experienced players he knew he could trust. Once momentum had been achieved he worked quickly to expand that core of players in whom he could place his trust – bringing in young potential talent at his own pace. Ensuring that are properly integrated into the Bok culture and ready to take the field in green and gold.
He constantly strives to improve the belief and culture amongst the players. I follow these guys on Twitter, and it brings a smile to my face to see the positivity oozing from their every thought in respect of the Bokke regardless of whether they are on the field or holding tackle bags. It calls to mind something like that which Venter brought to the Sharks. We are seeing improvements in every facet of our game and they are all beginning to gel together. Scoring tries from set pieces, broken play, turnovers, phase build ups and the tactical kicking. As our players become more in tune with the system in place so will we score more tries and concede less.
I frequently hear people talk about how we should play more like the All Blacks – but why? We are the Springboks. We play like Springboks. We play the South African way – brutally, physically, with bone jarring collisions that our farms boys walk grinning away from, whilst injecting speed, aerial superiority and dominant set pieces from intelligent training ground tactics. The Springbok method has always been our pride and glory – why would we want to trade this in for the All Black ™ method?
It will always be an impossibility for a Springboks coach to choose a side without at least 75% of the population disagreeing with him. However, I now truly believe that the worst thing that Heyneke Meyer could do is bow to public pressure. He’s started down a road, which to my mind leads to great places, and if he were now to change his plan and lose confidence in his vision, where would that lead us? Do you want a coach who will implement a game plan and system he himself doesn’t have faith in? That road only leads to mediocrity.
When I read critics which have their favourite players all selected together with no vision of the future, I think pure accession – select them because they are good now. No thought toward succession planning, or who has the necessary skills and attributes that fit into the plan. Who are the players who can fulfil those roles off the bench?
I work daily with a large group of Kiwis and Saffas. In the 6 years that I have known the Kiwis, the one thing I have never heard from them is criticism of their coach. If he chooses to drop a player in favour of another, they seem to simply accept it and trust that the coach knows what he is doing.
To play the comparison game again, Pieter de Villiers’ inherited what Steve Hansen has now – a world cup winning team. Except that Steve Hansen has surely, by the passing of time, shown himself more of a tactical genius than Pieter de Villiers ever was.
One of the most important things, in my mind, is that regardless of the coach’s vision, is that the game plan and vision will become second nature to all players. For them to evince complete trust in their coach, for them to show belief in the parts that their team mates have to play. Regardless of your talent, willingness to show faith in your coach, and the faith he shows in your colleagues’ abilities, takes time. Takes trust. It has become clear to me that the Boks are embracing this.
Heyneke Meyer clearly has a long term plan. It is not so one dimensional as many people think and we’re only halfway there. The constant flow of harsh criticism towards the coach does the Boks no good. So I say lets support HM in the same breath as we support the Boks. This is how we, as fans, can contribute the most to the Springbok cause and Rugby glory.Tweet