Heyneke Meyer says that the season was a success given that the injury-hit Springboks conceded just three losses.
The Boks returned to South Africa on Monday having won all three of their Tests in Europe. This ensured that they finished the 2012 season on a high, and allowed them to obtain an overall record that reads seven wins, two draws, and three losses.
Meyer feels that it is a good return considering the challenges a new coaching staff and team faced at the beginning of the year.
‘Our coaching team was only able to start working with the players relatively late as most of them were still part of Super Rugby,’ the Bok coach said, referring to the fact that he and his lieutenants had less than a week to prepare the new squad for the first Test against England on 9 June.
‘We always knew it was going to be a tough year with all the players we’ve lost. The All Blacks are still ahead of us, but we started fourth on the IRB rankings list and finished second. Now we have to close that gap and grow as a team.’
Despite their problems with injuries ahead of those three June Tests against England, they won the series convincingly. Meyer also took a side missing several experienced players to Europe this November, and while the side did not excel in terms of performance, they were deserved winners in all three Tests.
Where the Boks were less than convincing was in the Rugby Championship, where they finished third behind New Zealand and Australia. They scrapped to a disappointing draw with Argentina in Mendoza, and may have won the Test against the All Blacks in Dunedin had they converted more goal-kicking chances. However, they were soundly beaten by the Wallabies in Perth, and hammered by the All Blacks in their final game of the tournament in Soweto.
Meyer feels that while the year has been a testing one, the injuries have allowed several players an opportunity to stake their claim. Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Adriaan Strauss, and Pat Lambie have certainly shone in the absence of regular or favoured starters like Pierre Spies, Schalk Burger, Bismarck du Plessis, and Johan Goosen.
The Boks will also be stronger when the latter group, as well as the likes of Andries Bekker, Beast Mtawarira, Frans Steyn, Heinrich Brussow, and Bryan Habana return from injury in 2013.
‘It will be wonderful for South African rugby when all the injured players are back,’ said Meyer. ‘The competition [for places] will be immense.’