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Fri Apr 18 12:36:32 SAST 2014

Meyer lays down law

Liam del Carme | 29 January, 2012 09:110 Comments
SA Rugby Union media conference
Heyneke Meyer during the SA Rugby Union media conference held at The Auditorium, Sports Science Institute of South Africa on January 27, 2012 in Cape Town, South Africa
Image by: Carl Fourie / Gallo Images

In a marked departure from his predecessor, new Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer wants to be so hands on that the team's next long-term captain has to be, as he put it, "an extension of my personality".

"Your captain has to be selected on merit," he insists, which may also be interpreted as a deviation from the previous era. "He must embody the team's image. He has to be a strategist because I'm not on the field. You don't want to appoint someone for 10 years and feel you've made a mistake. Initially I will appoint a short-term captain," said Meyer.

Under his predecessor Peter de Villiers, the senior players were given a platform perhaps larger than most coaches would allow, but Meyer will employ different methods to harness their best.

"You have to seek the players' insights but when you are in a battle they must know who is in charge.

"Sometimes players do what is best for them. I'll make the best decision for the team and the players have to abide by that. I'm not going to tolerate prima donnas who think their place is guaranteed.

"They will have to prove themselves in Super Rugby. I won't exclusively pick on form but it will be important. The players don't have to like me. Just respect me," said Meyer.

The decorated former Bulls' mentor who has signed a four-year deal is unlikely to make wholesale changes to the team. "I think everybody wants a fresh start but it would be naïve to play with 22 brand-new players. I've been there before with the Bulls and lost 11 in a row. You can't build in Super Rugby, let alone tests. However, I want to introduce new principles and a new playing pattern."

He was loath to define that style. "If I was the coach of three different countries I'd get them to play three different ways. You can't have just one blue print. You have to look at your personnel. The game changes every six months.

"I always say 'simplicity is the sign of true greatness' which in a rugby sense means you have to force your strengths on your opponents' weaknesses. We have to get something that is unique to South Africa in our playing style."

He admits a World Cup win would be the "cherry on top" but insists his focus before the 2015 event will be trained on more immediate hurdles.

"Four years is a very long time. You have to establish your vision and culture but you have to keep on winning because anything can happen at a World Cup.

"I never focus on the win. If you focus on the person, how you want to play and make people accountable, victories will come. I want to focus on the process and not winning trophies."

He may have missed out in 2007 but Meyer feels this is "the right time" to coach the Boks. One of the abiding influences on his career was his first stint as Bok assistant coach under Nick Mallett, with whom he shares membership of an exclusive mutual admiration society.

Meyer got animated when he spoke about the prospect of pitting his skill against Mallett, who appears favourite to become England coach after incumbent Martin Johnson.

"I think there is a very good chance he'll become England coach. He knows the psyche of the English player. I think he's going to do really well if he gets the job."

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