Heyneke Meyer (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - A text message from the “old enemy” helped Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer navigate through the worst week of his coaching career and come out the other side on top, it has been revealed.
According to the supersport.com website, Meyer received a message of support last week from All Blacks coach Steve Hansen in a private exchange between the two that the Bok coach admitted played a part in handling the pressure after the shock loss to Japan in their opening game.
The Boks underwent some very definite challenges in the week running up to Saturday’s 46-6 win over Samoa, none more than simply finding the belief in themselves and their game plan again after being shook to the core by the loss against the World Cup minnows.
Meyer was the worst as well. As the week went on it became abundantly clear the coach was looking more harassed and had not slept well for the entire week. In fact, he admitted he had not slept for three nights last week as he tried to find the answers for the performance that shocked the nation.
Add to this the vitriol and anger from back in South Africa and some tough words at the team meetings and the Boks managed to shake off the complacency and arrogance of the first game and returned with a vengeance against Samoa to record a clinical win.
Considering the Boks missed several kicks at goal and didn’t finish at least four try-scoring opportunities, the 46-6 scoreline could have been much bigger for them if they were a lot more clinical.
But still, the way the Boks managed to find the belief and the message from Hansen shows just how much camaraderie there is between the two Southern Hemisphere sides, with respect being equal among the two nations.
The Boks and All Blacks always do a management dinner together when they meet twice a year and have gone to great lengths to establish the old rugby ethos of friendships off the field through the two coaches.
Meyer wouldn’t reveal what the message said, but complimented Hansen for the message and said it had help him look himself in the mirror and come back stronger.
“Steve is a quality man, as are most of the coaches. We all know we are under pressure. We know only one coach will win it and the rest will be under pressure in their countries. Steve is a great man and it just shows his character,” Meyer said after the win.
“In one stage in professionalism we moved away from that and we’ve really tried to bring the ethos back to the game. If people like the All Blacks can still support us and their rugby coaches – while we will always try and kill each other on the field – it shows.
“I’ve been there a few times in my life, and that is when I’m at my best and I’m usually true to myself. I don’t want to take anything away from the players, but I said to them please listen to me and do whatever we as coaches say and it will be an easy win.”
The Bok coach hinted that it had become a personal hell in the previous week for him, with Bok fans targeting his family and children, both unfair and hurtful as well.
“That is why I coach, I’m crazy as hell. Sometimes you don’t know why, but sometimes its good to look yourself in the mirror and see how tough you are. It was a tough week, for me its fine, but it was tough on my family and when it gets to your family, it gets personal.
“That’s why we coach, we’re here to serve. It isn’t about credit. The team must take all the credit. Making a real impact is what I am good at, and the players bought into it and said this is how we are going to play. Hopefully I made a difference in someone’s life today.
“It’s nice to know the players have performed and have really played for you today.”
The Boks and the All Blacks may meet later on in the tournament and the rivalry upped a notch if they do, but Hansen’s message to one of his fiercest rivals shows another side of rugby that often isn’t seen, and should be applauded.