Meyer laments failure to adapt
24 Jun 2012
Heyneke Meyer believes the Springboks went into this match with the right game plan but simply failed to adjust to the wet and windy conditions.
The Bok coach cut a dejected figure following the 14-14 draw at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. The Boks may not have lost this match, but there is a strong sense that they let themselves down with an error-ridden performance.
Both teams were forced to play in a swirling wind and the rain certainly made handling difficult. Meyer said that England adapted to these conditions and there is no doubt in his mind that the visitors were the better team. He also cited the lack of experience in the Bok pack as a contributing factor to a stop-start showing.
‘I’m not making excuses, but a lot of these [Bok] players haven’t played Test rugby in those conditions,’ Meyer said. ‘England certainly adapted a lot better and were the better team on the night.
‘The crowd support was probably the only good thing about this game. It was a learning experience if you think that we had four guys in our pack who haven’t played a lot of Test rugby, but we have really high standards, we know we are not here to learn but to win Test matches.’
The Bok coach defended the game plan, citing last week’s showing at Ellis Park as evidence of its effectiveness. He explained that the conditions compromised the Boks’ accuracy at ruck time, although the players were also at fault.
‘England were very good at the breakdowns in these conditions, they knew we needed quick ball and they did well to slow us down. Our cleaning out was not good enough, and you have to be accurate at the breakdown in those conditions.
‘No we don’t need to start looking for a Plan B. If we can’t execute a Plan A, why go to a Plan B? We will stick to this plan, it’s all about execution before innovation. There is still a long way to go, and we will stick to what works for us. We have already shown that we can be a dangerous side when we get it right.
While the Boks stuttered up front, the halfbacks also had a forgettable evening. Francois Hougaard was substituted for Ruan Pienaar in the second half, as Meyer felt that Pienaar’s experience of having played in wet conditions would help the Boks’ cause.
‘Francois is a dangerous runner but he needs to be able to play in those conditions, his tactical kicking needs to be better. Ruan has enjoyed some success playing in Europe for Ulster, so I felt he would be better in the conditions.’
Morné Steyn missed three goal attempts and also sent a drop kick wide of the posts in the dying moments. His erratic goal-kicking performance in Port Elizabeth was consistent with his mediocre showings in Durban and Johannesburg, and Meyer admits that the flyhalf needs to improve ahead of the Rugby Championship in August.
‘Goal-kicking was always going to be difficult in those conditions, and I don’t think you can blame it all on Morné. We didn’t play well,’ Meyer said.
‘Morné is a warrior, I thought he played very well in the previous two games. He’s got high standards and he knows he is not striking the ball well. He’s now got three Super Rugby games to get it right. We need him to get it right for the Rugby Championship.’
By Jon Cardinelli, in Port Elizabeth