Boks don’t have character?

Why am I so unsympathetic towards Meyer? I found myself asking that question this morning, when someone said: “It’s only Meyer’s 6th game in charge, give him chance”. Am I being unfair by demanding better performances from the Springboks and not excusing poor performances?  Is it because, with the whole Peter de VIlliers saga, with him being appointed in 2008 rather than sticking to White or picking the obvious best candidate, Meyer, I simply expected far more from him?

Yes, there are many good reasons why the team might be struggling to find its feet at the moment as compared to last year when we looked well on track to play in the World Cup final. We lost a lot of players with a lot of experience. So much so, that Meyer was very tempted to bring back Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez and Bakkies Botha to play for the Springboks.

The following philosophy from Meyer, and the results since then, are probably the greatest sources of my discontent:

“I believe in only two kinds of rugby – the winning kind and the losing kind. We’re going to aim to play the first one using traditional South African strengths such as having great, big forwards and skillful backs.”

“Winning is our only aim. But, it would be great to see a number of youngsters exposed to what Springbok rugby is all about.”

Regarding the first quote, it is clear Meyer’s definition of what winning Rugby is, is not currently being exhibited on the field and somehow, nowhere do I see the term “Experience” in that definition of his.  The Rugby we are currently playing, is the losing kind, not the winning kind.

“Great big forwards”, yes, has been a South African strength, but “skillful backs” have not traditionally been a hallmark of SA Rugby.

Meyer does allude to experience though in his second quote, and it was also, unknowingly at the time, a forebode to youngsters that, although they would get “exposed to what Springbok Rugby is all about”, they would find it hard to make the side on a consistent basis. Thus far, Meyer has had very little choice but to expose the youngsters, due to retirements and injuries, and I personally am quite happy with playing the youngsters, since as we’ve seen, they have mostly been playing the most inspiring Rugby of the lot. Etzebeth, Coetzee, Kruger and even with the limited time Cilliers, Goosen and Lambie got, we’ve seen that the “young guns” were firing much better than the old mausers…so to speak.

The other part of Meyer’s quote though, gives one the idea that he is intent on winning, and that it is a non-negotiable. Instead though, the Springboks as per his definition, have lost 3 matches from 6 already. But it is not the losing that is the most infuriating; it’s firstly, the fact that we keep on playing the same “losing” type of Rugby instead of improving how we play, and secondly, the excuse that players are either inexperienced or do not have “character”.

Meyer said after the loss to Australia that: ““It is all about handling pressure, being mentally tough and showing character, and guys don’t make mistakes on purpose.”

Now I do find it difficult to believe that the Springboks do not have character. It will be a first for me as Springbok supporter to observe a team labelled as without character. I recall many a games where we were down and out for the count in terms of the match, but always played until the final whistle, sometimes pulling through a miraculous recovery and winning, other times walking off beaten on the scoreboard, but with some level of pride. Under de Villiers, I doubt he ever used an excuse of a team or players without character and to be honest I doubt that anyone, even Mallet, ever referred to his side as such after a loss.

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