Meyer: SARU to tread water?

2015-11-23 14:25
Heyneke Meyer (Gallo)

Cape Town – Heyneke Meyer getting an awkward, one-year reprieve looks like one of the options SARU’s general council will chew on when they meet to determine the embattled Springbok coach’s fate on December 10-11.

Weekend newspaper reports suggest that in the absence of a credible array of alternative candidates for the post, the national body may opt to effectively tread water by giving him a further – fifth – calendar year in charge.

If that occurs, it seems a counter-productive development, only leaving the Bok set-up in a state of flux and Meyer on tenterhooks every time he takes charge of a Test match in 2016.

South African rugby is hampered by either inexperience or instability as far as the head coaching portfolios at their Super Rugby franchises are concerned, and the picture looks little brighter at Springbok level.

Many critics, supporters and former Boks have only cranked up resistance to Meyer in the weeks following both the World Cup and generally stuttering 2015 by the men in green and gold: although they ended the RWC with nominal “bronze medal”, the Boks also ended the year firmly curtailed to third on the world rankings by imperious New Zealand and losing World Cup finalists Australia.

The rather obvious retreat into old, cautious methods of play at the tail end of their RWC campaign only further irked people wishing for a pronounced, brave change in thinking and approach.

It appears the rationale behind Meyer earning a decidedly short-term extension is that it may allow potential replacements a little further down the line to free themselves of current contractual obligations.

But that hardly seems a guarantee of a sudden, high-quality flood of CVs in a year’s time, and would only leave the Boks in collective limbo for another 12 months.

In fairness, Meyer has shown in prior seasons a sometimes under-applauded willingness to evolve the Springbok game-plan – at one stage both his try strike-rate and win percentage were swelling nicely – but he chose an inconvenient, decisive year in 2015 for his choppiest at the helm yet.

The rock-bottom Castle Rugby Championship campaign and RWC-opening fiasco at the hands of Japan seemed to unnerve him enormously, and the Boks gradually lapsed into predictable, formulaic and monotonous ways as the premier tournament ran its course.

Especially given that the side may well be in a necessarily transitional mode from a staffing point of view – Jean de Villiers and Victor Matfield have already retired from internationals and other Boks may follow soon – handing Meyer a one-year “stay of execution” (unless he somehow sparks them back to life in a major way) suggests indecision, dilly-dallying and a knee-jerk reluctance to truly move on.

For several months, Meyer has only limped nervously from one match to another, given the mounting pressure on him from a results point of view, and it is difficult to imagine that phenomenon changing in 2016 if he is, indeed, allowed to soldier on for a particularly restricted period.

The first challenge is not the easiest one, either -- a three-Test visit in the June window by present Six Nations champions Ireland.

If it is decided that Meyer warrants another stint (or that the general council feel we are “lumped with him” because there are no genuinely compelling alternatives) it seems only fair that he get at least the next half-cycle -- ie, two years -- to the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

That appears the minimum acceptable period for him to bed down any required new faces in the team and meaningfully reshape his rather stalled – some would say outmoded -- template.

Warts and all, you cannot accuse Meyer of a lack of industry or passion for his job, and he has also demonstrated in the past with the Bulls that difficult years at the helm can be followed by hugely rewarding ones.

A one-year renewal of his Bok terms? That would only make him – and us – nervous wrecks during 2016 ... not to mention the team perhaps no closer to hauling in either of their great SANZAR rivals in the global pecking order.

The general council should not delay making a tough decision, either way.

They must either show Meyer a more appropriate, assuring vote of confidence, or ask him to step down.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    springboks  |  heyneke meyer  |  rugby


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