CAPE TOWN — Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is confident his top players will put their Super Rugby struggles behind them as they aim for World Cup glory later in the year.
South African teams are finding the going tough in this year’s Super Rugby competition, with only the Stormers and Lions able to hold their heads high at present.
The Cape side currently top the South African Conference on 43 points after 14 games, while the Lions are second on 40 points after 15 games, but even they are outside the playoffs spots, lying seventh overall.
The Bulls, Sharks and Cheetahs have failed to impress in a season in which the New Zealand teams have dominated.
In fact, were it not for the competition’s conference system — which automatically puts the leader of each country’s conference in the top three — the Stormers would not have occupied second spot overall as they currently do.
Both the Highlanders (fourth, 48 points) and Chiefs (fifth, 44 points) boast more log points than the Capetonians after playing the same amount of matches.
Meyer addressed reporters after a Springbok camp training session at a chilly, windswept Cape Town Stadium on Monday.
When questioned whether the SA teams’ struggles in this year’s event worried him, the coach responded: “Obviously it’s a concern. I can say it doesn’t matter, but it is a concern, but by saying that, there’s always a positive as well. I don’t believe that a player can peak from February until the World Cup [final] on October 31. There’s no way,” the Bok mentor said.
“If you look at even the other countries, I don’t want to compare, but a lot of their superstars are [also] not at their best right now. It’s important to peak at the right time frame and it’s important for me that the players will start to pick it up in the [Rugby] Championship, definitely. But not one team who have won the Championship have won the World Cup. Super Rugby is [also] a total different competition, but confidence is contagious, so is a lack of confidence.”
While admitting that it would have been advantageous for more SA teams to have performed better in Super Rugby, Meyer was confident that the players would be able to step it up when they pull on the green and gold.
“In 2007, two teams were in the [Super Rugby] final, and we won the World Cup, because we went in with that confidence. If I could have picked, obviously I would have liked all the teams to be in the final.
“But one thing I’ve seen with these players is that once they play for South Africa, putting on the Springbok jersey, it’s a total different animal. And it’s my job to get their confidence up. I’ve had a lot of meetings with senior players. They know exactly where they stand.
“We’ve got a great environment at the Boks, so I’m confident that we’ll get those guys back to form. But they also have to put up their hand and show they’re good enough.
“I believe there are some teams now hitting form [in Super Rugby], which is great, but I don’t think it is the end all and be all of winning the World Cup.”