Although Heyneke Meyer has said he wants to stay on as South Africa’s head coach, the South African Rugby Union would do Springbok supporters a big favour if they cut their ties with him at the end of the Rugby World Cup.
While the jury is still out on who his replacement should be, the Bok mentor has not won the World Cup which is the main criteria any coach from a country with South Africa’s rugby pedigree should be judged on.
Although Meyer has a 66 percent winning record at Test level, and came close to beating the All Blacks in their World Cup semi-final, the reality is that the Boks haven’t won a competition under his guidance since he was appointed in 2012.
Being the man at the helm of teams who lost, for the first time in their history, to Argentina and Japan is also not an achievement which should be listed on the CV of a Springbok coach.
Many of Meyer’s supporters who are calling for his retention argue that by reaching a World Cup semi-final he deserves a stay of execution. But after that loss to Japan, in their tournament opener, only the winning of the World Cup would be enough to keep him on in his position.
That of course didn’t happen and even a convincing victory in the bronze medal play-off against Argentina should be the cue for the former Bulls and Leicester Tigers boss to ride off into the sunset when referee John Lacey blows the final whistle to that match.
At the team announcement for that match on Wednesday, Meyer said that a big reason for him wanting to stay on in his current role is because he wants to work with the “youngsters coming through”.
But if one takes a closer look at his starting line-up to face los Pumas on Friday then Meyer missed a golden opportunity to back up those words with action.
Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Handre Pollard, Eben Etzebeth and Frans Malherbe are the only players aged under 25 in the run-on side with seasoned veterans and 2007 Rugby World Cup winners like captain Victor Matfield, Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen, Ruan Pienaar and Bismarck du Plessis forming the core of his run-on side.
With Meyer at the helm, the Springboks have also beaten the All Blacks just once from eight attempts. A pathetic return when compared to that of his predecessor Peter de Villiers, who beat the All Blacks in five out of 11 matches.
The one time they did beat the world champions under Meyer’s guidance – a 27-25 victory in a Rugby Championship dead rubber in Johannesburg last year – the Boks took New Zealand on at their running game but sadly such moments have been few and far between in subsequent matches.
And when that game-plan yielded defeats, Meyer reverted to his old ways, opting instead to play a forward-based and one dimensional style of rugby.
Although that style of play has won him several matches when the chips were down – like the return match against Argentina in Buenos Aires earlier this year – it didn’t get the necessary result when it was crunch time against New Zealand last weekend.
To his credit, during his tenure as the Boks’ head coach Meyer has brought in the likes of Kriel, De Allende, Pollard, Etzebeth, Malherbe, Lood de Jager, Trevor Nyakane, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Siya Kolisi who should form the backbone of the Springbok side for years to come but one feels that the abovementioned players would reach even greater heights under the guidance of a more effervescent coach, who will be more willing to take risks.