Johannesburg - Heyneke Meyer may only be in the first real testing week of his tenure but he is already setting up structures that are far more advanced than the national team have ever had before.
Along with SARU’s new General Manager: High Performance Rassie Erasmus, Meyer has already set the wheels in motion to see that players are up to speed with what he wants from them ahead of the England Test series, including game plans, individual skills and a number of small intricacies that could make the world of difference when the international season rolls around.
Meyer and Erasmus have already started setting up the structures - both short and long term goals that will benefit SA Rugby, with players from the Cheetahs and Lions being the first to benefit from the new unified structure that SARU wants in place for its national teams.
For the first time at this camp, a national coach will tell his players where they rank on the national pecking order, what they need to improve in their game and how long they have to do it, and more importantly just what he’s looking for from them.
While it seems absurd that this hasn’t been the case before, in the past coaches chatted individually to players and their provincial coaches, and often it wasn’t followed up, or simply ignored.
But now, Meyer and Erasmus have already set up a system to track player statistics, and other than walking through his game plan for the England series, Meyer and Erasmus have had one-on-one meetings with all 30 players present in Johannesburg to let them know where they stand. This system will eventually include an online database where players can log in and download drills and plays so that they understand them when they get to the national camp.
New Zealand have had this system up and running for years now, with great success and their national coaches are welcomed when they visit the franchises in a country where the national team comes first.
Erasmus will help Meyer in the long-term set up similar structures for all the national age-group levels, so that players are given individual skills coaching and analysis from the national set-up so they are up to speed when they reach the national team.
It is an ambitious project, but one which, if successful, will reap the benefits of a team that uses the time they have productively to focus on beating the opposition.
Meyer already faces an uphill battle to prepare his first side in a short week after a bruising north-south derby, and will need all the help he can get to have players ready to understand his vision when they get to camp.
“Rassie already started doing some work for me behind the scenes and for the first time we have statistics on all the players. He will sit with me on the one-on-ones and we will be able to discuss with every player where they stand in relation to the national team,” Meyer explained.
“Say its Pat Cilliers for instance, I’d be able to tell him where he’s graded in relation to the other props, what he must do to improve and with three weeks left what chance he has of making the squad. Rassie will be a big help in this, and we both agree that if SA Rugby has a strong technical committee, we can produce analysis that is more substantial.”
The camp with the Cheetahs and Lions players will be followed by a second camp next week with the Sharks and Bulls players and one the week after with the Stormers players.