Meyer earned his stripes
AN UNPRECEDENTED thing happened before the Springboks' first test against England - a Bok coach went into his first match having already frittered away the public's goodwill.
Springbok coaches leave the job acrimoniously, but they are generally granted a honeymoon period which lasts as long as their first year in charge.
Put it this way: Andre Markgraaff, Harry Viljoen and even Rudolf Straeuli were once considered visionaries - and we all know how they left.
But never has a coach been under so much pressure to vindicate himself by winning as Heyneke Meyer was on Saturday.
Many may argue that Peter de Villiers had more pressure. But his pressure had nothing to do with him and was created by the suspicion around his being the first black Bok coach. Meyer managed to alienate Jan Alleman on his own through the "Bullish" nature of his coaching and playing squads.
This is ironic because the former Bulls coach was the universal choice to coach the Boks from the latest candidates, which may have led many to believe that they would agree with all of his decisions.
But the announcement of any Bok team invariably meets with counters about who should or shouldn't be in the team.
Looking beyond the bulldust, the real issues around Meyer's first squad were the paucity of Stormers players and the omission of four players - Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Siya Kolisi and Heinrich Brussow. There's a possible rugby reason for each omission.
Aplon probably doesn't fit into Meyer's safety first style; de Jongh's cutting back into traffic at centre, and a refusal to pass, is a game his slight body can't execute; Kolisi probably lost a coin-toss in the choice between him and Marcell Coetzee because the latter is bigger; and Brussow was not needed yet because Richie McCaw and David Pocock were not on the opposition's team sheet.
Brussow's situation is simple, Meyer is right when he claims that open-side flankers haven't been consistent match-winners in the Super 15.
That is because they now have to carry a lot more, and the second arrival at the tackle in defence is deemed the fetcher, and not the actual designated fetcher.
The Boks also have a problem in their previous area of absolute strength, the lineout. It could be a weakness this season because Bakkies Botha and Victor Matfield have moved on.
If kicking for territory is a crucial part of your game, your lineout needs to be strong. With rookie locks like Eben Etzebeth and Juandre Kruger in charge, your loose forwards become crucial options in the lineout.
This means shorter but worthy loosies like Kolisi, Brussow and Ashley Johnson miss out.
The one thing we should remember when unhappy with our favourites not making the Bok squad is that our teams are the greatest because they never play on Saturday.
Meyer's have to.
Meyer's achievements in the domestic game have at least earned him the right to succeed or lose on his own terms. That means he gets to pick his own teams and make his own decisions as well.