Meyer faces tough selection posers
Meyer faces tough selection posersSHARE
South Africa's coach, Heyneke Meyer, admitted on Sunday he had serious back row problems to solve before a Rugby Championship third-round clash in Australia next month.
His first away game since replacing out-of-contract Peter de Villiers in January did not go according to plan this weekend, as they snatched an undeserved 16-16 draw with fired-up newcomers Argentina.
Los Pumas held a 10-point lead three times at Estadio Mundialista Malvinas Argentinas and it took a Francois Steyn try off a charge-down to salvage some pride for the often outplayed Springboks.
Next up for the two-time World Cup holders is a September 8 showdown with bogey team Australia in Perth, followed a week later by an even more daunting assignment against current World Cup champions New Zealand in Dunedin.
The Super Rugby winner, Meyer, gambled on a new loose trio combination of flanks Marcell Coetzee and Jacques Potgieter, along with No.8 Willem Alberts in the western city of Mendoza at the foothills of the Andes mountain range.
But the anticipated physicality from the green and gold back row never materialised as they repeatedly came off second best at the breakdowns while a near-capacity 40,000 crowd roared on the home team.
"We battled at the breakdown, we got little quick ball and, when we did, we should have used it better," Meyer admitted before the long flight back to Johannesburg.
"Argentina came hard at us as expected – creating many difficult situations for our inexperienced team – and we were found wanting at times when it came to mental toughness.
"I am sorry the way we played did not honour the great welcome we had in Mendoza.
"The people can be proud of their team," said Meyer of a national team avoiding defeat for the first time in 15 Tests against the Springboks.
Meyer opted for ball-carrying loose forwards when he took over and discarded Heinrich Brussow, ranked among the best "scavengers" in world rugby for his ability to win possession at rucks and mauls.
Potgieter was a particular disappointment in Mendoza, never stamping his authority on the game as he did for the Bulls in his maiden Super Rugby season.
Meyer admitted that he will have to make some "hard decisions" before the Boks play Australia in a fortnight.
"You have to keep some form of continuity," the Bok mentor said, when asked how he planned to turn it all around.
"A lot of players haven't played more than three or four Test matches, so you can't just go out there and throw out the players.
"It wasn't good enough [in Mendoza] and each player needs to know that, otherwise I have to take hard decisions."
He said his team "showed some character" to come back from 3-13 down.
""We just need to train harder, keep our heads down and learn from this – we mustn't make excuses.
"We have to go out there and beat Australia away."
Argentina proved quick learners as they shrugged off a 6-27 loss in Cape Town last weekend to dominate much of the game through a fiery pack and fearsome tackling with veteran loosehead prop Rodrigo Roncero prominent.
"We had hoped for another result – a win – but we are still very satisfied. The team did a lot of good work at the breakdown, displaying a strength of Argentine rugby," said coach Santiago Phelan.
But the 38-year-old former Pumas flank could not hide disappointment at letting victory slip from their grasp, nor could inspirational captain and No 8 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.
"We made progress from last week in Cape Town and now we must prepare for the biggest challenges we will face as players," he said ahead of September fixtures in New Zealand and Australia on consecutive weekends.
"There was much talk this week about improving how we got out of our own half and for a big part of the match we did that well. The key factors were attitude, commitment and confidence."
New Zealand completed a "double" over Australia by winning 22-0 in Auckland and lead the Championship table with eight points after two rounds, followed by South Africa with six, Argentina with two and Australia are pointless.