South Africa failed to defeat Argentina in Mendoza, but to publicly tear into Heyneke Meyer as if he is the worst thing since Osama bin Laden, is truly unwarranted and uncalled for. Perhaps we all need a wake-up call. Meyer’s Springboks have played in five tests, they have won three and drew two. England is a former Rugby World Champion and Argentina is no push over on their home soil.
Be fair to Meyer
South Africa failed to defeat Argentina in Mendoza
September 5th, 2012
Jake White and Bobby Skinstad were some of the critics who questioned Meyer’s Springbok coaching style after South Africa looked out of sorts in Mendoza. Frans Steyn saved the day with a try against the run of play.
It should be remembered that Argentina was beaten semi-finalists at the Rugby World Cup in 2007 and their top players all participate in the top tier European rugby competitions.
Argentina flooded the breakdowns against the Springboks which resulted in Steve Walsh (the referee) having a very poor day at the office. A more pedantic referee would have dished out two yellow cards against the hosts and it then might have been a different game.
White won the Rugby World Cup in 2007, but he had some help. His back-line coach was Eddie Jones, who had a massive influence on the Springbok's performance throughout that campaign.
Argentina suffered against the Boks in the World Cup semi-final because they inexplicably decided to change their game plan and to run with the ball.
White has a very short memory. Was he not at the helm of the Boks when they lost 49-0 to Australia? Were they not thumped by England, and then White said afterwards; “It was like boys against men?”
Meyer has massive challenges. He is without Victor Matfield due to retirement; Guthro Steenkamp, Jaque Fourie, Fourie du Preez, Bakkies Botha, and Danie Rossouw are not available due to commitments overseas; and Schalk Burger, Pierre Spies and Bismarck du Plessis are out due to injury.
Perhaps the criticism is vindicated that Meyer should tweak his game plan and improve offloads as well as the linking between forwards and the backs. They also need to run straighter and focus on a Plan B if they encounter trouble at the breakdowns.
During his brief tenure, Meyer has been too one-dimensional and too stereotypical.
But crucifying him for a draw against Argentina in Mendoza is uncalled for. The punishment hardly fits the ‘crime’.
If the criticism was constructive, it would be easier to deal with. Superficially, it seems like a witch hunt.
Jean de Villiers, the Springbok captain, was right about the fact that the Boks failed Meyer because their execution in Mendoza was poor. They performed to between 50% and 60% of their ability.
Perhaps the match on Saturday between the All Blacks and Argentina in New Zealand will be an eye opener. It might give a clear indication of how good or bad the Argentinian team truly is against the world champions.
South Africa will be up against an Australian team who failed to deliver against the All Blacks and lost 0-22, prompting calls for the removal of coach Robbie Deans.
The Wallabies have improved slightly in terms of their set pieces, and their defensive effort was more than average. But they played with a lack of self-confidence.
The Wallabies are also masters of spoiling or slowing down possession at the breakdowns, as they demonstrated against the Springboks in the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals, aided by referee Bryce Lawrence.
Meyer is a man who analyse opposing teams very well and he will know what to expect from the Wallabies.
The management team, Meyer and the Springbok team would undoubtably be motivated by the destructive criticism and would love White and others to eat their words with a convincing display in Perth.
But that will be little more than idealistic daydreaming if the Boks fail to get their back-line moving. De Villiers and Francois Steyn were little more than frustrated spectators in Mendoza.
The revival of Morné Steyn and Francois Hougaard will be pivotal to put the world-class three-quarters like Steyn, De Villiers and Bryan Habana on the front foot.
Johan Goosen will be breathing down Steyn’s neck, and he needs a convincing display if he (Steyn) wants to retain the number ten jersey for the foreseeable future.
Perhaps the conditioning team should also have a look at Steyn, who might be carrying too much weight.
The lateral running by the Bok back-line also need to be addressed.
Patrick Lambie has been given a raw deal by Meyer. Zayne Kirchner is a good provincial fullback, but lacks the X-factor, and Lambie could give the three-quarters opportunity if introduced at number fifteen.
The selectors should be congratulated for their decision to select Francois Louw. He is a ball-carrier and has the ability to clear the rucks when in top form.
The Springboks cannot afford to slip up in Perth. They need to win. If they do this, they will silence the motormouths and get the critics off Meyer’s back.
The forwards owe Meyer arguably their best performance of 2012 and the inside-backs must simply improve dramatically if South Africa wants to start their Australasian campaign with a bang and not a whimper.
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