Jaco van der Merwe
Head of Motoring
3 minute read
15 Oct 2015
2:00 pm

Defining moment in Meyer’s Bok tenure

Jaco van der Merwe

The World Cup quarterfinal against Wales on Saturday could pretty much turn out to be the defining moment of Heyneke Meyer’s career as Springbok coach.

We lose, their campaign will go down in history as a complete failure. Heads are bound to roll big time and people will say the writing was on the wall during the Japan defeat, Meyer selected too many old-timers and he had a disregard for transformation. We win and it’s happy days for Meyer.

First of all, a quarterfinal win buys them another two weeks airtime at the tournament. Even if they lose the semifinal, which would be against the All Blacks if it goes according to script, they are assured of getting the sympathy vote for being beaten by the best side in the world and the defending champions, and on top of it all, they’ll still get a chance to come home with a bronze medal.

Fans will welcome them with open arms should they return with bronze gongs dangling around their necks, and most probably forgive them if they lose again and finish fourth, because they had no motivation left and what is the big deal with finishing third anyway?

It takes me back to 1999. Ask most Bok fans what is the first thing that springs to mind when they think of that World Cup campaign and you’re bound to hear: ‘’Bloody Larkham’s fluke drop goal,” or ‘’Jannie’s five beauties against England’.’ Pretty much like the Class of 2015, Nick Mallett’s charges limped into the World Cup in 1999.

They lost three Tri-Nations Tests on the trot before sneaking a onepoint win against the Wallabies at Newlands. That compares rather well with Meyer’s crop this year who lost all three of their Rugby Championships outings before restoring a bit of pride with an away win against Argentina. Mallett’s boys were also not great during the group stage, beating Scotland in a high scoring match before two awful displays against Spain and Uruguay.

Then it all came together when Jannie de Beer’s boot sent England packing and gave supporters a real feel-good vibe. The Boks finally gave them the belief that another title was on the cards before being ousted by the Aussies in a tense semifinal. But then for good measure, Joost van der Westhuizen led the Boks to a bronze medal win over the All Blacks, who were still in shock after their stunning loss to the rampant French. In hindsight, De Beer’s worldrecord five dropped goals against the shell-shocked English in their backyard was just an added bonus for Bok fans.

It didn’t matter how they toppled the hosts, they ensured their campaign escaped the “failure’’ basket by reaching the semis. Fast forward 16 years and nobody cares to remember how poor the Boks were leading up to that tournament or during the group stage, let alone Mallett’s controversial decision to drop longtime captain Gary Teichmann on the eve of the tournament. I

f the Boks manage to clear one more hurdle, a lot of the sideshows around the team and coach will also significantly fade over time and years from now the tournament will be reduced to a sympathetic memory and/or less desirable colour of medal, if not the Holy Grail itself. Now is probably a good time to mention the Boks are leading tthe betting market to finish third.