In the Hotseat - Heyneke Meyer from Pretoria
April 18, 2012
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Hi everyone,

Let me start by saying thanks to everyone who took time to send in questions. I appreciate all of them and the messages of support are very special.

I received heaps of questions and due to time constraints (and the fact that there were lots that were similar), we’ve decided to group them according to general themes.

As we’re currently busy with a planning camp in Pretoria and the schedule is very full, I’m sure you will understand. So, here goes…

Team selection and captaincy, including overseas players, Frans Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Victor Matfield, Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh, Morne Steyn, Joe Pietersen, Pierre Spies, Francois Hougaard, Johan Goosen, Johan Sadie, Steven Kitshoff, Eben Etzebeth, Marcell Coetzee, Tim Whitehead and Ashley Johnson:

Heyneke answers: It would be wrong of me to speculate on team selection and individual players before I’ve at least had the opportunity to work with all of them, which is exactly what we’re in the process of doing. At the moment, players from the Lions and Cheetahs are with me here in Pretoria at our first planning camp and I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen.

Obviously not all of them will come into contention for the England series, but it’s good to be able to sit with them and show them what we are planning to do with the Boks this year (more about that a bit later).

Next week we’ll have the Bulls and Sharks players here and the week after that we’ll work with the Stormers in Cape Town. By then I would’ve seen close to 100 players. What more can a coach ask for (apart from perhaps more time to prepare). We’re a nation blessed with so many extremely talented players and I’m excited to work with them in the coming years.

I’m not going to discuss individuals, but those that are not playing like they can, will know about it. If they can pull themselves together, I will look at them – if not, they won’t feature. It’s as easy as that. I will pick the best players for the Boks that I believe can win Test matches for South Africa, even overseas based players.

Questions on the game plan, aggression needed at the breakdowns, the difference in the ways teams from the northern hemisphere play v those from the south, straight running by the backs and the use of defence coaches from American Football teams:

Heyneke answers: Firstly, I need to say that we probably won’t veer from the traditional South African way, which is to use our big ball carriers and play with controlled aggression to get us over the advantage line. As soon as you have your opponents on the back foot, the opportunity is there to attack. We probably won’t throw the ball around and hope for holes to open, but we will work hard to create those holes.

Secondly, playing against teams from the north is obviously different to playing teams from the south, but our philosophy won’t change. In the end we need to do what works best for us to win Tests. Sometimes it will be pretty, sometimes not. But if the score board says the right thing at the end, I’ll be happy.

And lastly, I’ve been to the USA a lot to learn from their various sporting codes (Vince Lombardi is someone I really admire) and we’re already implementing some of the things we’ve seen over there on this side.

Building towards RWC 2015, focussing on the blooding of new talent from the start or rather use older players against England, what do you look for when selecting players, captaincy, our depth in SA and problems with injuries:

Heyneke answers: I’ve said from the start that while the Rugby World Cup is very important, I feel it’s just as important to win every Test you play in. If you win week in and week out, the RWC will take care of itself.

That is why I’m going to select the best possible team to face England, irrespective of age or experience. If I feel an older player still has what it takes and he’s the best we have, then I will pick him. The same goes for the young guys.

Like I’ve said, we have a lot of talent in this country and depth that would make other countries jealous. Yes, we also have injuries, but that will never be an excuse.

Regarding the captaincy – I feel we’ve lost a lot of good leaders in South Africa, but we still have a lot of good captains remaining. I will pick my team first and then my captain. That’s how I’ve always done things.

The use of players of colour:

Heyneke answers: I don’t see colour when I select teams. I want the Boks to play winning rugby and to make the nation proud.

Referees and law matters:

Heyneke answers: I will leave these issues up to Andre Watson and the other relevant people. It’s never been my style to complain about referees as I know they are an integral part of the game. Everyone makes mistakes – be it me, the players or the referee. You need to be able to overcome what is in front of you to win and that is the culture I want to instill in the Boks.

I also had an interesting question about a certain website and who I think is the most complete flyhalf in SA?

Heyneke answers: I’ve not seen the website, but when I get a moment, I will check it out with my technical guys. And the most complete flyhalf in South Africa? Sorry, but I’m not going to answer that one now. Ask me again in a few years’ time when I’ve had time to work with the best we have (and let me assure you, they are all great).

The composition of the management team, playing “boring 10-man kicking Bulls rugby (the questioners words, not mine) and using the expertise of Nick Mallett or Balie Swart:

Heyneke answers: Negotiations with my preferred management team are at an advanced stage and I have faith in the guys at SARU HQ to get the right people on board. I know there is the perception that I’ve only picked guys from the Bulls, but these are the people I know and trust and can work with. If you look at the management team as a whole, the “Bulls guys” only form roughly a fifth of it. The rest are from the Free State, Western Province, KwaZulu-Natal and a number of people who used to work with Peter.

Furthermore, two of the people I’ve identified, Ricardo Loubscher and Louis Koen, are Springboks, while a third member of the management team, Rassie Erasmus, also played for the Boks.

Thanks to the following people who took the time to send in questions: WO Anderson, deon jooste, Dirk C le Roux, Desmond Petersen, Roxy16, KP, Greg, Robert, Pieter Oosthuizen, Adri Snyman, Stefan, Piet, Brendan Sutcliffe, Brian Delport, David Collins, Allen Johnstone, Irwin, Chris, Glenn Abel, vossie, Trixi, Carlos Ferraz, Blake, Ashley Smith, Theo, Sakkie, Jacques Henning, Naas Viljoen, Byron George Donaldson, Pieter van den Berg, Peter L'Estrange, Gerard le Roux, chris sysum, Jacques, Michael, Hilton, Anna Forbes.

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