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Heyneke Meyer doesn’t come across as the type of coach who would make bold claims just for the sake of it, or waste time with gamesmanship.
In fact, there is an air of honesty to his opinions and views. What you see is what you get, and it certainly spoke volumes when Meyer described the Springboks’ approach to training this week as the best he’s experienced.
“I have been coaching for about 20 years and in terms of pure attitude from the players this is the best I’ve seen,” he said.
“I’m not just saying that because it’s the Springboks. Every single player has trained in every single session and only in my wildest dreams did I think that would be possible after the Super Rugby derbies at the weekend.
“The players’ attitudes have been brilliant.”
Despite the Springboks’ limited preparation time for Saturday’s first Test against England in Durban, Meyer said he had seen sufficient signs to feel positive about their prospects.
“The players know that good enough is not enough, only the best will be good enough. I’ve been very impressed with the players.
“Although we’re not completely there yet and still have some training and preparation sessions to come, we’ve really trained hard, with a lot of one-on-ones and video sessions to get the gameplan sorted.
“I’m really happy with where we are, the attitude of the players and the way they’ve adapted to the stress. You can see that they really want to play for their country and I can’t ask anything more of the players.”
Yesterday Meyer named the team to take on England on Saturday, with only nine players who featured in last year’s World Cup quarter-final included in a starting line-up that boasts a relatively low total of 458 caps.
However, Meyer said he was confident this was the best team to take the Springboks forward.
“The match-day 22 has changed a few times in my mind since I was appointed. I initially thought I’d go with an experienced side and blend in the youngsters, but I think it’s worked out for the best. What you lose in experience you gain in desire and hunger from them to play for their country. More recently this team has been settled in my mind.”
One of the selections that has incited public debate is the inclusion of Zane Kirchner at fullback instead of Pat Lambie, but Meyer reiterated it was a decision made with careful consideration of the side’s composition.
“Both are quality fullbacks, but I went for combinations and guys that know each other. We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare, so if you look at the front row, locks, loose-forwards, 8-9-10 as well as 15, they are all guys that are used to playing with each other. Patrick is a great player and there is a good chance he’ll come off the bench and make a big difference.”
Meyer also named the Sharks’ Bismarck du Plessis as vice-captain.
“I want to give guys chances and ensure there is strong leadership in the team,” Meyer said. “I believe Bismarck is a very good choice, I’ve been happy with what I’ve seen so far from him.”
Meyer was also very impressed by debutants Marcell Coetzee, Juandré Kruger and Eben Etzebeth.
“It’s quite a new thing for us to have two new locks starting and obviously it’s a huge step up for them. They need to prove that they can play at this level, which I’m sure they will.”
For more, see Page 45