NEWS ARTICLES
Q&A: Heyneke Meyer
September 27, 2012

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer made himself available this week to answer supporters' questions.

Meyer and the team are currently in camp in Johannesburg preparing for this weekend's Castle Rugby Championship clash against Australia, but was kind enough to put aside some time for this Q&A session.

We received over 600 questions, so we selected and forwarded 20 of them that best represent the main themes.

The questions covered selections, gameplans and everything in between.

Below is what Heyneke had to say.

Questions and answers

Jaco van Niekerk asked:
Do you think the Springboks have the mental toughness to compete currently against the likes of the All Blacks. If yes, why can''t we convert the games that count?PS: a Springbok Supporter all the way!!!
Heyneke Meyer answered:
I certainly do Jaco, but you have to remember that mental toughness is something that is cultivated over years and our younger players will get better with time. It’s also part of building character, which is something these three Tests overseas really did for us, showing the guys how to come back stronger from a defeat.

However, younger players are fearless and have heaps of courage, which is also wonderful in a team environment. And thanks for the support.

Luiz Silveira asked:
Mister Meyer, there are rumors about you calling Fourie du Preez to the end of year tests, is that truth? Are you looking to the young talents in the position such as Piet Van Zyl and Cobus Reinach as well?
Heyneke Meyer answered:
Luiz, it’s still a bit premature to speculate about team selection for the November tour. We currently have two very good scrumhalves in our squad with a third, Jano Vermaak, who’s been with us the entire season.

Piet van Zyl is one to watch for the future and also spent three weeks with us in June, while I watch every other player locally and abroad that can add value. I will always look at the local option first, though.

ZUKISA JAPHTA asked:
Good day Mr.Meyer,

I would to ask what kind of criteria do you use to select players? is it expirince or purely on current form?

Thanks
Heyneke Meyer answered:
My main criteria will always be to do what is best for the team and then the individual Zukisa.

Experience also counts and current form is always very important. If you do use younger players, it’s always good to balance that with more experienced players around them.

Danie Hattingh asked:
Hi Heyneke,

How difficult do you think it is for a player to adjust his "natural game"? Is it something you would ask a player to do, or do you pick a different player?

Regards,

Danie.
Heyneke Meyer answered:
We pick a player based on his performance on the various levels he’s played at and we don’t want players to adjust, because once we pick a player, we want him to do what he does best, which would essentially be to play his “natural game”.

Armand asked:
Good morning Sir

I have to say I am very impressed by your undertaking of this Q & A! Much criticism and questions have been directed towards your current coaching and selection methods.

Do you feel that this criticism is truly unfair and unfounded, or did you make a few mistakes on the tour that if given the chance, would be rectified by playing other players in certain positions, especially referring to Morne and perhaps giving Pat a few more minutes?

Good luck for the weekend and rest assured that the Bokke and yourself will have all the backing needed to make a success of this team!!
Heyneke Meyer answered:
One thing I’ve come to realise is that it’s impossible to please everyone all of the time, and I always look at myself first to see where I could improve.

However, I will always listen to fair criticism and want what is best for the team and South Africa – it’s not about me. Then it’s always easier to look back at things that happened and decisions that have been made. I am only human and do make mistakes, like anyone else, but when I change things, like today when I announced that Johan Goosen will be at flyhalf and not Morne, it’s not an admission of a possible mistake, but rather doing what is best for the team.

I select players on a series of good performances over a period of time and one or two bad performances by a player do not make him a bad player. As coach, it’s my job to work with players who have lost confidence to regain it and be in a position to deliver their best yet again for the Springboks. I also have a long term plan with certain players and will not change my vision for them, and on the short term you can’t chop and change every week just because of performance. You will always migrate towards your long term goals.

Vaughn asked:
Morning Coach,

I think we can all agree on the fact that Morne is not playing well at the moment. What is your plan for him as a pert of the Springbok setup? And at what point do you as the coach say enough is enough and bring in a new starting number 10?
Heyneke Meyer answered:
Well Vaughn, by now you would’ve seen the team and probably heard my comments in the media. Morne is a world class player and probably needs a break, but I’ve always said that I wanted to see what Johan can do. This opportunity is now, but Morne is a fighter and I’m sure he will be back to his best soon.

Ibrahim Tootla asked:
Regarding the recent form of the springboks,and looking forward to world cup 2015 what are our objectives as a unit in maintaining a balanced outfit..i feel as if our forwards are doing well but the back line seems to be very unstable with players in and out of the squad..can you tell me what are our goals in moving forward?? tactically n selection wise..i do feel we need to turn our utility players in to specifically positioned players..thanks
Heyneke Meyer answered:
Ibrahim, our goals are very straight forward – we want to win every Test we play as we build towards 2015 by bringing through the next generation of stars. Sometimes things like injuries force change, but that can also be viewed in a positive light for the player getting an opportunity.

I think we’re improving and building a solid new team, but some of our opponents, who have settled squads, might have to make similar changes closer to 2015.

Werner Dove asked:
Hi Heyneke!

First off, much respect, I know you''re a great Coach and you will take the Boks far!

My question are: Having played against all 3 opponents in the RC, how do you devise team selection and -strategy for the opponents regarding the opponent strengths and weaknesses? Like what type of player would you want to field against certain opponents?

Thank you very much!
Heyneke Meyer answered:
Thanks for the compliment Werner, your words mean a lot to me.

To answer your question – we will never select a team based on our opposition but rather focus on what we want to achieve.

You do take their strong and weak points into consideration, but if you pick only based on that, you are already in a defensive mindset. I believe in an attacking mindset and that means you force your strong points onto your opponents and that is what makes a champion team, otherwise you will always be a follower and we need to be leaders.

Peet Luckhoff asked:
Mr. Meyer. How is the mood currently in the camp after all the negative comments about selections and the gameplan? Is there still a positive atmosphere or have certain doubts crept in going into the home games.
Heyneke Meyer answered:
The mood is great Peet – and this is not just PR speak! I can really say that this bunch of guys are very positive, they enjoy being around each other and the team spirit is something very special at the moment. I believe in building a culture where the players will “die” out there for each other, and I think we’re well on our way there.

However, we all realise the importance of the next game. I’m so proud and fortunate to be part of this squad of very special players and I can assure you that they we growing as a team with every passing day.

B van Wyk asked:
More Heyneke,

Almal praat oor "off-loads" soos die All Blacks en die Sharks dit doen. Ons sien dit nie sommer in Springbok rugby nie en wil net weet wat is jou gevoel ivm dit? Gaan ons dit binnekort sien of is stampkar rugby n beter opsie?
Groete
Heyneke Meyer answered:
Iets wat min mense weet, is dat ons meer ge-“offload” het as die All Blacks in Dunedin. Dit gaan oor die regte tyd en die regte plek om die “offload” te speel.

Op hierdie vlak moet ons die spelers toerus met die vaardighede en kennis om te weet wanneer dit aan is en wanneer nie. Hoe hoër die vlak van rugby, hoe minder spasie is daar op die veld en dit maak effektiewe offloading moeiliker.

Jy sal ook sien dat langer spelers, soos Sonny Bill, is van nature beter offloaders, want hulle kry hulle hande deur die tackle. Ek glo beslis nie aan die sogenaamde stampkar-rugby nie (van my vorige spanne het van die meeste driee in hul onderskeie kompetisies gedruk), maar as goeie afrigter moet jy die spelers leer om die regte besluite te neem en dit kom met tyd. Onthou, ons is nog maar nie eens twee maande saam as ‘n span nie.

Koos asked:
Hi Mnr. Meyer!

Bly om te sien my oud LO onnie van FH is nou Springbok Coach! My vrae is die volgende:

1. Daar is byna nooit kans om ''n ''volsterkte span'' op die veld te stoot vanwee beserings ie Bismark, Schalk, Juan etc. Hoe kan SA Rugby en afrigters dinge verander om te verseker dat spelers beskerm word daarteen?

Tweedens is die samespel tussen die agterste 3 nie goed, hulle ''gel'' nie , hoewel elkeen heel goed op sy eie speel, ontbreek afronding op sleutel oomblikke..wat kan die afrigting/spankeuse doen om dit reg te kry?

Derdens, vuilspel,dom strafskoppe is nou al vir 3 wedstryde na mekaar te siene, ek besef geen afrigter stuur ''n speler op die veld om dit te doen..maar dit kos ons letterlik wedstryde en skep weereens die persepsie in die buitewereld dat die Springbokke ''vuil en dom'' speel. Wat kan die afrigting doen om dit vir eens en altyd te verwyder?

Go Bokke!
Koos

Heyneke Meyer answered:
Hi Koos – goed om van ‘n oud-FH man te hoor!

Eerstens, oor beserings en ‘n volsterkte span – dis iets wat nie in my hande is nie en ek moet die beste maak van dit wat ek het. Beserings is natuurlik ontwrigtend en deel van die spel, maar die positiewe is dat dit ander spelers gee om blootstelling op hierdie vlak te kry.

Tweedens, ons groei as ‘n span en die manne is besig om mekaar te vind, soos jy noem. Ons het ongelukkig nie die luukse van tyd nie, maar ek is baie tevrede met hoe die ouens saam speel.

En laastens, ek het dit al vele male gesê dat dissipline ononderhandelbaar is. Die spelers weet dit ook. Swak dissipline kos jou wedstryde en ek sal dit nie duld nie. Die spelers weet hulle kry een kans by my, want mense maak foute op die ingewing van die oomblik onder druk, maar hulle moet ook verantwoordelikheid daarvoor aanvaar.

Frik Brits asked:
Based on Richie McCaw''s announcement to take a break from Rugby for 6months next year, do you feel that there are some SA players that needs to do the same ?
Heyneke Meyer answered:
Yes, there are, but it’s not in my hands unfortunately. In New Zealand they have a system of central contracting, which means the NZRU “controls” where and how much their players play, at all levels of the game, but we don’t have that – NZ are the leaders in this aspect of the game.

I do believe we can prolong our players’ careers by managing them better, like they are now doing with Richie.

Jacques asked:
Morning Heyneke.

First off, all the best for the big game on Saturday and know that you and the Boks will always have my support.

To my question, you must have had an idea in your head of how your Bok team would look and what type of rugby they would play before you were appointed earlier this year. Taking injuries and non-availability of players into account, how has your plans changed so far this year?

Thanks for taking the time to answer questions on a public forum.
Heyneke Meyer answered:
Thanks for the support Jacques. I did have an idea of the ideal team, but something like that doesn’t exist in rugby. I’m very happy with the group of players we have at the moment, though.

From day one I started looking ahead to 2015 as well and I know all the players in SA from U-16 upwards. Unfortunately getting these guys through is a process and you can’t just pick all of them from the start.

Willie Petzer asked:
Good day Heyneke,

I have the following question. It seems to me that the combination of Frans Steyn and Jean de Villiers is not very effective in the midfield. They are both big and strong but do not seem to be able to break the opposition''s line. What are the chances that you can move Frans to fullback, Jean to inside senter and bring in either De Jong or Tuate? Would that not make our backline a little more dynamic?

Good luck for Saturday.
Heyneke Meyer answered:
Good question Willie. At this level defence is so good, that most teams struggle to break the line. When we realised Jaque Fourie would not be available, we realised we had to look at all possible combinations.

Everything you mentioned in your question are things that we are considering.

MARC GERSTNER asked:
Hi Heyneke. Heinrich Brussouw is a world class No6,and when he wears the green jersey, lifts his game to even greater levels. Many fans are asking why has he not been considered for the Rugby championship? What is your take on this? Many thanks..........Marc
Heyneke Meyer answered:
Marc, we know what we have in Heinrich and that I think he is a quality player. When the squad was first selected, he was injured. We ended up selecting Francois Louw, who grabbed his chance with both hands, so we could not leave him out.

When Heinrich works through all his injury problems and regain his form, there is no reason why we won’t look at him again. I’ve always had nothing but the highest respect for him as a player and a person, which is very important to me.

Gerhard Beukes asked:
Dear Heynecke
What impact has pieter de villiers had as the new scrum coach compared to what Os du randt achieved in the past? Does he bring a northern hemisphere perspective to the group?
Regards
Gerhard
Heyneke Meyer answered:
Gerhard, you should actually ask the front row about Pieter. But he’s been brilliant and I think you could see Pieter’s influence in the way our scrum has really done very well this year. Keep in mind he’s only had a limited time with our props, but his involvement is a process and ideally we would like to see him work on a much broader basis with front rows across the country. The fact that he comes from France, where they love their scrumming, helps a lot and he is also an astute student of the game.

Riaan asked:
Hi Heyneke,
Much have been said about dominating the gain line and the importance of that aspect in your coaching philosophy. Do you feel it is imperative to dominate the advantage line close to the rucks in the so called "channel 1" and thereby lowering the risk of turning over posession; or is it worth having a go at the gain line wider out with our strike runners like Alberts etc? Thus : still seeking gain line dominance but upping the risk and reward somehow? Thank you for your time. Great to have such an open and accessible coach.
Heyneke Meyer answered:
Gain line dominance is very important Riaan, but we also try to minimise risk because these days, at Test level, most tries are scored from turnovers, so keeping the ball is very important.

Having said that, if the opportunity is there to send our strike runners into space, we will definitely do it. If you want to be a quality team, you have to be able to dominate the gain line in any area on the field, but specifically where their defence is weak. It’s a process, it takes time and it’s something we’re working towards. In the end, if you don’t dominate the gain line, you won’t get quick ball.

mike asked:
I know that the public always think they know more than you, and are constantly criticising you and your decisions.But know this that the majority of us support you and of course the team. My question is this.. do you ever take into account the public''s view to assist in your selections? Thanks for all the hard work you and the team out in I know that we will be top in the world again soon.
Heyneke Meyer answered:
Mike, it’s people like you, with this kind of support, that gives me the energy and drive to get out there and try to make this team the best team in the world! If you take the public’s view into consideration, I will have to pick a brand new XV every weekend. I will always do what is best for the team first, and that is the most important. I have a lot of respect for our rugby supporters and their knowledge, and I like nothing more than making them proud and putting smiles in their faces, but it’s imperative for me to pick teams without emotion otherwise you will never be successful.

I live and work with these players week in and week out and I know when a player is on a high or a low, and have to take these things into consideration as well. I work with people and not machines – a player will do anything for their coach if they know he cares about them and puts their interests first.

Hennie Cloete asked:
Hi Heyneke

Baie Dankie dat u die tyd vat om met ons die publiek te praat, ek het net vinnig `n vraag, Is die "game plan" of spel patroon nie bietjie oud en uitgespeel nie? die kick en chase was fantasties maar dink sonder ouens soos Fourie en Victor ens.. is dit nie die regte opsie nie of indien is daar nie `n plan B nie dit lyk nie of ons agterlyn enige nuwe bewegings doen nie maar dink ook dus omdat hulle nie die bal so baie kry nie en dan net so vinnig Johan Goosen is goed genoeg so hy is oud genoeg. My opinie as mens gaan kyk na Wilkonsin,Jenkins, O Conner en Naas self hulle was baie jonk toe hulle begin toets rugby speel. Hoor graag u terugvoering.

Sterkte vir Saterdag
Hennie
Heyneke Meyer answered:
Hennie, ek hoor baie van die spelpatroon. Dis iets wat in my opinie totaal oorskat word – deesdae speel bykans alle spanne dieselfde soort rugby, met klein veranderinge hier en daar. Daar is baie persepsies, maar dit gaan regtig nie oor die spelpatroon nie, eerder dat die spelers geleer moet word om die regte keuses onder druk te maak. Mense kritiseer die feit da tons skop nogal baie, maar besef nie dat ons teenstanders in die drie toetse oorsee elke keer aansienlik meer as ons geskop het nie.

Dit gaan ook oor jou teenstanders se verdediging – as daar ‘n vol lyn voor jou staan na ‘n skop van jou teenstanders, kan een ou nie met ‘n teenaanval begin nie, maar as die verdediging jou spasie toelaat, moet jy dit aanval. Dis nie ‘n spelpatroon nie, maar eerder besluitneming op die veld en ons neem dikwels nog die verkeerde besluite, wat deel is van afrigting om dit te verbeter.

Ek wil he ons moet meer aanval en ons werk hard daaraan. Jy sal ook sien dat spanne tuis meer driee druk as weg en ons kom nou terug van drie weke op toer. En jy sou teen hierdie tyd seker gesien het Johan kry Saterdag sy kans en ek sien baie uit om te sien wat hy kan doen.

Otto Saayman asked:
Hi Heyneke! Thanks for taking the time.

Which Springbok game were you most satisfied with the players'' performance since you took over as coach and why?
Heyneke Meyer answered:
The first half against England in the second Test in Johannesburg was probably the best 40 minutes we’ve played this season, but I believe that our performance against New Zealand in Dunedin was probably the best 80 minute effort if you look closely at how we played and what we achieved in line with our plans. But we were on the wrong side of the score board and that is not good enough. I set very high standards and I know it’s a matter of time before this team will play great rugby, but like I’ve said before, these things take time. And remember, we came up against three settled teams with settled coaching staffs on tour while we are in the process of creating a new era in Springbok rugby.

Message from Heyneke: Thank you to everyone who sent in questions. I understand there was more than 500. I really appreciate it and want to apologise that I could not answer every single one of them, but there simply wasn’t enough time. Thanks for all the support!

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