South Africa’s end of year rugby tour overseas must have been a rather depressing few weeks for Heyneke Meyer and for a man who suffers every sporting setback more acutely than any of the players, may mean a less than jolly Christmas.
Other than two losses in four matches, both to teams which are only outside chances of making the semi-finals of the 2015 World Cup, it is unlikely that the coach learned very much from the experience. Ireland had an outstanding unbeaten autumn and were very focused for the game against the Boks, tackled heroically, as they did again in the second half of the Wallaby game and got the bounce of the ball. The Springboks were not bad but there were too many mistakes and poor decisions by players and captain.
The highlight of the tour was the match against England where South Africa almost looked like the No 2 team in the world, at least for the first fifty minutes. Against Italy there were again too many errors but it was yesterday’s final game against Wales which really left a bitter taste. The Welsh controlled most of the territory and possession but still contrived , as so often in the past, to lose a game they should have won by fifteen points. To most Bok teams of the past they would have lost. Presented with several opportunities towards the end, the Boks proved even more inept than the Welsh. A big forward pass, two knock-ons by Willie le Roux of all people and a dreadful penalty from Pollard.
On this tour Meyer will have been pleased that his pack generally scrummed pretty well and the lineouts, as usual, were solid. He should have learned that Carr is a better player than Mohoje, that Vermeulen has played just too much rugby this year, that Hougaard will not be going to the World Cup, that de Villiers is not the player he was and that it is going to be difficult to make a final decision on a flyhalf.
SA is probably fortunate that Bakkies Botha and Jaques Fourie have ended their international careers and I would ask why outstanding twenty one year old lock Etzebeth is repeatedly substituted while thirty seven year old Victor Matfield remains on the field. Meyer would be well advised to look forward not backwards.