How Boks can become No.1
How Boks can become No.1SHARE
Heyneke Meyer has faced his share of criticism in his short tenure as a Test coach, especially as he only has a 44 percent success rate.
However, he is confident he can turn South Africa into the No.1 team in the world, if he is allowed to implement the structures that he believes will benefit the Springboks.
Like so many Bok mentors before him, Meyer has found it tricky to build a winning combination in a set-up where provincialism remains rife and domestic coaches also want to get some value out of the country's best players.
This has left Meyer with a severely depleted team for his year-end tour – players like Bismarck du Plessis, Coenie Oosthuizen, Andries Bekker, Schalk Burger, Juan Smith, Pierre Spies, Johan Goosen, Frans Steyn and Bryan Habana all out injured.
Add to that the unavailability of Japan-based players like Fourie du Preez and Jaque Fourie and it is clear Meyer has some huge hurdles to overcome.
"Coaching the national team is more a managerial job and that is very frustrating at times," Meyer told a media briefing in Cape Town, where the Boks gathered to start preparations for their three-Test tour of Ireland, Scotland and England.
"My strength has always been to look at the system and change the system," he said, adding: "I think the one team that gets it right in the world is the All Blacks..
"If you look at their year-end-tour – they blood a few youngsters and they take 34 players. Those youngsters play with experienced players – that is how it should be.
"You shouldn't get guys like [19-year-old Cheetahs wing] Raymond Rhule, who last year was still at school, and suddenly guys talk about him starting in a Test match.
"I feel the All Blacks get that system right.
"My strength has always been to change systems.
"I knew the first year would be tough and then I can put my mark, my stamp, on things and try to change the systems.
"We have to look at that, otherwise we will never be the top team in the world. Everyone needs to look at it [the system], because at present it is lose-lose for us.
"The players can't play Super Rugby, Currie Cup and Test matches.
"I have a lot of meetings with the players – they have a social and family life as well and presently these guys are never at home.
"We will lose more and more players [to] overseas [teams] if we don't manage them properly.
"They are human beings who need to perform at home as well, but they are never there.
"I am a positive guy and believe we can select the best team going forward.
"If we want to be the top team in the world – I'm not saying winning one or two games with a bit of luck, I am saying consistently – we need to look at the systems.
"It doesn't matter who is the coach, he is still going to struggle [in the current system]."
Meyer admitted, given the injury count and general fatigue, that he will have to alter his preparations for the encounters with Ireland (November 10, in Dublin), Scotland (Edinburgh a week later) and England (London, November 24).
"I am worried about all the injuries, especially if you look at the backs," the Bok mentor said, adding: "There are some great players that are out injured.
"We have some youngsters in the team, but if you look at players like Frans Steyn and Bryan Habana that are out – they were playing great rugby.
"This is an important tour for us and we have to change things – in fact we have been working on the planning for the last two weeks.
"We will definitely have to cut back and just manage the players.
"It is frustrating – sometimes you want to grow [as a team] and train [work on] some new things.
"Everybody, the public and media, want to see new things [in the game plan] going forward, but we are actually still busy with the basics.
"We definitely have to cut back on training sessions, because the conditions [in Ireland and the UK] are tough and there is the risk of more injuries.
"It is frustrating, but we just have to get on with it.
"Guys like [Japan-based] Fourie du Preez can still play [but he is not available at present] and Jaque Fourie [also in Japan, but unavailable] can play.
"I'm not saying the other guys are not good players. However, if you have Fourie du Preez, Frans Steyn fit again, Jaque Fourie and Bryan Habana [fit again] then suddenly you have a very experienced backline.
"I have been very happy with the youngsters who have put up their hands, but in the big games – those 50-50 games – you need that experience."
By Jan de Koning