12 Jan 2009
Heyneke Meyer would serve South African rugby better as its national Director of Rugby rather than in a similar role with the Southern Spears.
Keo.co.za has learned from a reliable source that Meyer has been offered the role of Director of Rugby with the Spears, who are widely expected to be included in a expanded Super 14 in 2011.
Meyer recently returned to South Africa from England, where he coaches Leicester Tigers, to be with ailing family members. It is becoming increasingly likely that he will exit the Tigers post early and return to South Africa. This view was reinforced by Tigers officials who last week conceded that their chances of holding onto Meyer were becoming slim.
Meyer was unable to be reached for comment for this piece, but in my previous discussions with him he has consistently spoken about his desire to contribute to South African rugby in some capacity. Notably, he has intimated that he would not be interested in a head coaching role with any franchise.
His primary ambition remains the Springbok coaching job, which he was inexplicably denied in January 2008 when SA Rugby opted for Peter de Villiers. They admitted at the time that rugby credentials were not the sole determinant in the appointment.
In the previous discussions he made mention of opening an academy where players and coaches could benefit from expert tutelage. But he has also consistently expressed frustration at the politics of rugby at all levels, and admitted that this made the prospect of a move into the business world an appealing one.
At present there is a strong possibility that Meyer will return to South Africa and, given my extensive interaction with him over the past three years, it’s more than an educated guess that he would be interested in the Spears job.
There can be no question of Meyer’s credentials or ability to succeed in the role should he accept the offer. He thrives in building structures that aim for long-term success on and off the field. The manner in which he rebuilt the Blue Bulls from a faltering union to one of South Africa’s best during his tenure there bears testament to this.
His intellectual capital, however, would be better utilised in a national capacity, where he would have a greater scope and better resources with which to work. Following Meyer being overlooked for the Springbok job, former Saru deputy president Mike Stofile approached him to gauge his feelings on the possibility of him being appointed as national Director of Rugby. Meyer was interested, but Stofile became embroiled in an ugly race for the presidency, which he subsequently lost. The issue was never discussed with Meyer again.
The possibility of SA Rugby creating a position for Meyer within its ranks is virtually non-existent. But that doesn’t mean we can’t debate the merits of such a move.
Meyer would be outstanding as the Director of Rugby at the Spears. But why limit one of South Africa’s best coaches in this manner when he could be serving the national interest? There are two other South Africans capable of succeeding in the role – Nick Mallett and Jake White – but both are disliked by influential individuals within the governing body and in turn have become cold to the idea of involvement at any level. Why overlook the one who would be open to an approach and one whose experience at Test, Super Rugby, Premiership and Heineken Cup level would greatly benefit De Villiers?
There is a strong possibility of Meyer returning to work in South Africa. If SA Rugby was determined to serve the national interest, it would be bending over backwards to be more accommodating. Yet it seems there’s a reluctance or lethargy on their behalf. Not surprising, but deeply disappointing.
By Ryan Vrede