Durban - Two former Test captains, Wynand Claassen and Divan Serfontein, are drumming up support among old Springboks, provincial players and supporters to bring down Rugby World Cup coach Heyneke Meyer.
The pair, in an unprecedented move to end Meyer’s tenure as Springbok coach, on Friday circulated a hard-hitting letter under a heading “Heyneke Must Fall” among dozens of former Springboks. Claassen and Serfontein have called for concerted action to ensure that Meyer’s four-year contract is not renewed when the SA Rugby Union (SARU) executive meets early next month after the Springboks finished in third place at the Rugby World Cup.
“Let us stand together and fight for change in South African rugby so that we, as loyal South Africans, can again be proud and that players get the opportunities to develop, thrive and to wear the Springbok jersey with pride,” the two said.
“There is no doubt that SA rugby is on the decline, if one looks at the performances of the Springbok team over the last four years.
“One out of eight victories over the All Blacks in the last four years, tell the whole sorry tale.
“After Heyneke Meyer took over as Springbok coach at the end of 2011, he said that the people must judge him after the 2015 World Cup. Well, the tournament had come and gone and now is the time to judge him.”
Claassen, who led the Springboks from 1981-84 and also captained Natal, and Serfontein, a former Western Province and Springbok scrumhalf, said that Meyer has blamed the players’ “lack of skills as the reason for the World Cup disaster” but the problem was that the team was not being coached properly.
“The skills of the players are being suppressed in his rigid, predictable pattern and he actually points a finger at himself by acknowledging that the skills are lacking.
“He is coaching pattern rugby instead of individual skills. He is obsessed with size and power… his archaic pattern doesn’t work anymore, but he is still persisting with it. It points to stubbornness and he does not realise that the rest of the rugby world has already moved on, playing total, 15-man rugby, which is exciting for both players as spectators. The players of other countries develop and improve. South Africans are going backwards.
“Heyneke does not understand the modern game. All the rugby playing countries know exactly how the Boks play and plan accordingly.”
The two ask what fate would befall Steve Hansen, the All Black coach, if his team lost to Argentina in New Zealand, were beaten by Japan in the World Cup and returned home with only a bronze medal as consolation prize.
“Meyer insisted (in selection) on experience and pursued old players past their best or retired; he stuck to players who have been injured for a long time; players out of form; and also did not give the necessary opportunities to players of colour.
“Look further to his inexperienced managing and coaching team (which he insisted be appointed) with absolute no international experience at this level. Apparently they also do not know how to coach individual skills. It therefore indicates that Heyneke appoints people, not because of their ability as coaches, but so that he could control them and demand total loyalty.”
Claassen and Serfontein are adamant that SARU should not be satisfied with a mediocre World Cup, four failed years of coaching and the rapid decline of Springbok rugby.
“This brings us to the extremely suspicious process of Heyneke’s appointment for another term of a further four years by SARU. Who did this?
“Can SA Rugby afford someone that performs like a maniac in the coaching enclosure, wearing his Springbok blazer, in the eyes of the whole world on television? Compare this with the behaviour of Steve Hansen of New Zealand. Is this the example of a role model?”
Claassen, who is back in Meyer’s home city of Pretoria after decades in Durban, said that he and Serfontein had decided to protest before Meyer’s contract was confirmed for another four years. In the circulated e-mail they requested the recipients to forward their letter to as many ex-players and Springbok supporters as possible.
“If one takes everything above into consideration, Meyer has failed. But despite this, he defends his list of performance and now pleads for ‘continuity’ to retain his job.”
“The crux of the matter is that other countries, our own people as well as former Springboks who have so much pride in the Springbok jersey, are feeling ashamed about the performances of the Boks.
“One man is responsible for this, namely Heyneke Meyer.”