Brenden Nel - SuperSport
Johannesburg - Ever since new Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer was appointed, there have been fears across the country from those expansive-minded folk that he will keep the Boks playing a kick and chase game that didn’t deliver dividends under Peter de Villiers.
But the new Bok mentor laid those worries to rest, although he didn’t quite prescribe a radical free-for-all change to the way the Boks will be playing this year.
Meyer has always built his game plans around a strong pack and a solid flyhalf, but the game has evolved since his tried and tested game plan was introduced so many years ago at the Bulls.
While the Bulls were good under his tutelage, their lack of penetration at the Springboks had more to do with the difference in management and lack of accuracy than the plan itself.
However saying that, the Bok coach is not blind to the task at hand and knows if he is to win over the majority of Springbok fans, it will need to be with winning rugby, in whatever form that may take itself.
This is why Meyer won’t necessarily go away from the Bok strength and physicality, but rather try and tweak the game plan more to ensure it is a successful one for the players he can choose from.
Since he has been appointed, Meyer has been preaching a gospel of basics, and uniformity in approach. Nothing is likely to change as he starts crafting his tenure in charge of the national team.
“The basics always stay the same. I’ve studied a lot of rugby games lately and the game is changing every six months. If you don’t adapt to the new rules and the new style of play, then you will get left behind,” he explained.
“But saying that, if you look at the World Cup then teams go back in tough situations and they’re doing the basics well. That will never change. The one thing that will definitely change is the conditioning of players. It is a longer season with more games, but there are also games which are quicker and which have the ball more in play.”
Meyer has stated quite openly his worry about the conditioning of players, especially as the fittest side on the field usually has a massive advantage in a physical encounter.
“I’m very concerned about conditioning at the moment, and we have to get our players better conditioned. You need athletic players if you are going to perform at the highest level. Most Test matches are won or lost in the last 10 minutes,” he added.
“I’m positive if we work together we can rectify it. It is important that we do a lot of research this season into the way the game is changing.
“But I’m a firm believer in how we play that we use our strengths as an advantage. People out there respects South African rugby and I don’t think we need to change too much. We have our own style and we need to stick to that.”
For now that means fitter players, using their physicality. But don’t write off a few surprises in the Bok play along the way. Meyer is after all, a thinker in the modern game.
If he gets the right personnel around him, Bok rugby could benefit substantially through it all.