Rugby-Springboks coach Meyer only interested in winning

Reuters

Tue, 29 May 13:24:00 2012

Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer is patently clear about his primary task in charge of South Africa's rugby team - nothing but winning will suffice.

"I believe in two types of rugby; winning rugby and losing rugby, there is nothing in between for me," said the man entrusted with the fortunes of the Springboks over the next four years.

"I've always said attack puts bums on seats but defence wins games. I'll rather take an ugly win than lose a game playing great rugby," he told Reuters in an interview ahead of his debut series against England in June.

Former Leicester and Bulls coach Meyer, 44, took charge in January, succeeding the controversial Peter de Villiers.

There will no revolutionary change in approach or shift away from the tough physical game characteristic of South Africa for decades.

"I intend to play to South Africa's strengths which is great big forwards and skillful backs," Meyer added.

Any thoughts of the new coach carrying on with the colourful quotes and bizarre expressions voiced by De Villiers are quickly dispelled.

Meyer comes to the job after South Africa's failure to successfully defend their World Cup crown in New Zealand last year, where they lost in the quarter-finals to Australia, and at a time when many long serving players have ended their international careers.

"We had great players in 2007 (when the Boks won the World Cup in France) and in 2011 I thought we had some of the greatest players in world rugby but a lot of them have moved on now," he said.

"I'm very positive about the young players coming through and a lot have put up their hands in this year's Super Rugby championship and that makes me excited. My job will be picking the right guys, putting the right structures around them and creating the environment where they can excel."

Meyer is pragmatic about the pace of that transition and the prospect of recalls for the likes of scrum half Fourie du Preez, now playing club rugby in Japan, and lock Victor Matfield, retired to the television studio as an analyst, has dominated speculation around his first team selection and the identity of the next Springbok captain.

"I believe you need to go out and win every single test match. I don't want to use a building phase as an excuse. I think with the right structures and planning, the next World Cup will take care of itself.

"That is a long-term goal but you need to also plan short term. It's difficult to plan more than six months ahead."

ENGLAND FOCUS

Meyer said the three-test home series against England is his only focus for now, with any thoughts of the upcoming expanded Southern hemisphere series against New Zealand's All Blacks, Australia and Argentina are on hold.

"I would have liked to have had an easier start.

"I was very impressed with England in the Six Nations. What I took out of those games was that there is a lot of mental toughness. The first two games they were under a lot of pressure but in the end, beating France away from home was a huge, huge achievement.

"I think they will come here with a lot of confidence and going forward they are going to be a strong side for the next World Cup. Although they've got a lot of x-factor players and game beakers, they get the balance right. They have an unbelievable defence and they put a lot of pressure on the opposition with their defensive game."

South Africa host England on June 9, 16 and 23 in Durban, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth respectively.

"I'm a big believer you should play the right type of rugby for a particular game," added Meyer.

"I don't want to say we are going to play a specific type of rugby and then have to go back and bite my tongue. You need to study every opponent, look at their strengths and weaknesses and then adapt your game plan around that."

 

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