Planet Rugby

Meyer under pressure to deliver

30th August 2012 12:13

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Heyneke Meyer hands behind back

Under pressure: Heyneke Meyer

Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer is five games into his tenure and it appears he is already feeling the heat which comes with the position.

Central to that deduction is the way he is contradicting himself after last week's 16-all draw with Argentina in Mendoza.

"It is easy to throw players out and pick new ones, but that is not coaching, that is picking," Meyer told reporters when the Springboks arrived, after that result, in Johannesburg on Monday.

"I have been in this position a few times during my career as a coach and the easiest thing to do is just drop players - but that will not move the Springboks forward."

Not much has been made of those quotes but to me it sounds like a pearler from Meyer's predecessor, the inimitable Peter de Villiers, who was an expert at confusing the rugby world with what he said and did during his stint in charge of the Boks.

This time the confusion comes from Meyer's decision to call up Western Province number eight Duane Vermeulen and Free State Cheetahs fly-half Johan Goosen when he announced his 28-man squad on Wednesday.

Both are uncapped at Test level and their selections go totally against what he said on Monday.

Adding to that, Vermeulen and Goosen were on the sidelines for lengthy periods and only recently returned to action for their provinces in the Currie Cup.

Will they see action against Australia and New Zealand? Time will tell but those selections along with the decision to recall WP centre Juan de Jongh and Bath flanker Francois Louw - at the expense of Bulls utility back JJ Engelbrecht and Sharks loose forward Keegan Daniel - are an indication that Meyer is already under great pressure.

The latter players had little or no game-time in Mendoza and will now have to be satisfied with doing Currie Cup duty for at least the next few weeks while Meyer will expect the guys coming into the squad to hit the ground running if they are included in his matchday squads.

What puts even more pressure on the former Bulls coach is that former Springbok boss Jake White (who is now coaching the Brumbies) has criticised Meyer's decision to do what worked best for him during his time in charge of the Pretoria-based franchise.

White is quoted in Die Burger newspaper as saying Meyer's game plan for the Springboks is not a winning one.

"Heyneke's coaching style is not a style that will help the Boks to win," said White.

"If you can't score at least four tries against Argentina, then there is a big problem."

While White is entitled to his opinion but his views on Argentina display great disrespect to a country that has made tremendous strides as a rugby nation. Los Pumas have certainly managed to stand their ground against the heavyweights in the international arena in recent seasons.

So White's comments on Argentina are baffling to say the least, especially considering White's success with the Boks was built on similar tactics to those currently employed by Meyer.

But where I do agree with him is that Meyer's approach is outdated.

Before taking over the reins at the Boks, Meyer attained success with the Bulls and his last stint as a head coach was with Leicester Tigers in the 2008/2009 season.

That is more than three years ago and the game has moved on at a rate of knots since then.

If he wants to find out what is wrong with his team's performances he should look no further than their style of play.

The Boks' conservative approach might see off the Wallabies - who have serious problems of their own - in Perth but Meyer is in for a rude awakening if he persists with that game pan against the All Blacks in Dunedin. The inclusion of Goosen and Louw suggests there is light at the end of the tunnel. We'll find out next week.

By David Skippers

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