SPRINGBOK coach Heyneke Meyer and his players can take a bow for completing their end-of-year tour unbeaten at a wet and slippery Twickenham on Saturday. While none of the three victories in the tour was particularly inspiring, it is the first time since 2008 that the Boks have not lost a match on their tour to Europe – and that in itself is no mean achievement.
Besides, two compelling factors weighed heavily against the Boks.
The first is that Meyer’s squad was very badly affected by injuries. The Boks were without nine or 10 first-choice players, including top stars like Bismarck du Plessis, Bryan Habana, Schalk Burger, Frans Steyn, Andries Bekker and Juan Smith. To register victories over Ireland, Scotland and England without more than half the team is impressive.
Second, the Boks were fatigued by a long and ardous season, and there were times on tour when they seemed to be out on their feet. But they found the energy and resolve to keep England out with some heroic tackling.
Coaches, of course, are judged on their results and Meyer’s report card after first season reads: played 12, won 7, lost 2, drawn 3. That is not an outstanding year by any means, but nor is it anything to be ashamed of.
It is way too soon to deliver a verdict on Meyer. Any coach deserves to be given time to put his stamp on a team and it would be fairer to judge him at the end of his second season.
It is true that the Boks scored only four tries in three matches, and there are still questions over their creative and attacking play. It is to be hoped that Meyer will back creative players next season as that is the only way the Boks can mount a credible challenge to New Zealand’s supremacy.
Nevertheless, there is an air of excitement regarding the prospects of Springbok rugby. Fired by players like Duane Vermeulen, Eben Etzebeth, Willem Alberts and Francois Louw, the Bok forwards are developing into a mean and commanding unit.
And it is encouraging to see that Meyer backed a player like Pat Lambie at flyhalf.
So bring on 2013.