Johannesburg - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has made it clear how high his standards are going to be this year - he expects his players to win their home games in South Africa without compromise.
Meyer has already completed phase one of his training camp in Pretoria with the Cheetahs and Lions players, and is currently in camp with the Sharks and Bulls players. He reiterated his mantra of choosing players with character for the national team.
But above that, he admitted he expects more than just a good record at home, with home victories non-negotiable and away victories the key factors in developing the Springbok team.
“I said to the players that when you play for South Africa, I expect you to win,” Meyer said, “It’s not like jumping in the air when the final whistle goes. The biggest challenge is playing away from home and winning in New Zealand and Australia. What is good is that a lot of our Super Rugby players have now done that, which is great because I look at character in players as a key element.”
Meyer said it was important for him that teams start to see South Africa as a tough destination to play in. And not just northern hemisphere teams, but those from the Southern Hemisphere as well.
“It's important to me that teams come here and respect us, they need to know they’re coming for a tough battle. Obviously we want to win every game when you represent your country,” he added.
The camp saw a one-on-one session with every single one of the 31 players, as well as theoretical sessions on training, defence and individual skills. For those thinking this was a quiet week, the mornings started at 07:30 and the last one-on-ones finished way after 23:00, with Meyer and Rassie Erasmus making sure no stone was left unturned. The same process is busy taking place with the 45 Bulls and Sharks players this week.
“I had a one on one with every single player and went through their stats with them and it's surprising what we covered in two and a half days. They know exactly where they stand. What is also good for me is that sometimes you don’t understand why a player in a certain position takes a certain option, which you may think is the wrong one, you get the opportunity to understand the player’s role in his franchise side.
“I want to make this clear, I don’t want to tell the players how to play at their franchises. They must play they want to play and how their coaches want them to play. I support that, and it's great to have different styles as well. It was great for me to sit down with the one-on-ones and suddenly the guys said this is what they want. At least this last month before the Test matches I know what they are trying to achieve on the field and when they make a decision, I have a lot of insight into why they make that decision.”
Meyer has a tough task ahead of him, especially with a matter of days between a series of tough derbies and his first Test as coach against England on June 9 in Durban.