Sunday 4 December 2016

Springbok boss Heyneke Meyer defends himself after being accused of making 'racist choices'

Published 12/08/2015 | 16:02

South Africa head coach Heyneke Meyer
South Africa head coach Heyneke Meyer

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer says he has the full backing of his players and is committed to a transformation in Springbok rugby after coming under fire from the country's largest trade union.

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Media reports suggested five black players had approached the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) with grievances over their non-selection for recent matches, which led the organisation to call for Meyer to be sacked over what they termed "racist choices".

But the 47-year-old says his players have rallied around him and dismissed Cosatu's claims.

"A lot of them came to me and said, 'coach, it's not true what's in the papers. We stand by you, we know exactly where we stand'," Meyer told reporters on Wednesday.

"You're always going to get players that are unhappy if they don't play. I don't look at colour, I look at the best players. I'm totally committed to transformation and I have a great relationship with my players."

Two black players, Zimbabwe-born Tendai Mtawarira and Bryan Habana, were in the starting line-up for the shock 37-25 loss to Argentina in Durban on Saturday.

That number will jump to four for the test against the same opposition in Buenos Aires this weekend.

Fullback Zane Kirchner and winger Lwazi Mvovo are injury replacements, Habana retains his place and Trevor Nyakane replaces Mtawarira at prop, with the latter dropping to the bench.

After four test defeats in a row, Meyer's position has come under scrutiny, something he acknowledged while reading a statement at the announcement of the team to face Argentina.

"They say that sport or rugby builds character. It doesn't build character, it reveals character. When I took the job I said it's not about me, this job is bigger than the individual.

"The most important thing for me is to keep my integrity. I know there is a lot of criticism. I don't have any excuses and I know where the public comes from.

"There is a lot of negativity and I understand that, but like I said from the start, I'm going to keep my integrity and that's more important to me than just winning."

Saturday's match in Argentina is the final warm-up for South Africa ahead of the Sept. 18-Oct. 31 World Cup in England, where they have been drawn in Pool B alongside Japan, Samoa, Scotland and the United States.

Springbok team to face Argentina in Buenos Aires is:

(15-9) Zane Kirchner, Lwazi Mvovo, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende DHL Stormers, Bryan Habana, Pat Lambie, Ruan Pienaar; (8-1) Schalk Burger, Willem Alberts, Heinrich Brüssow, Victor Matfield (c),  Eben Etzebeth,  Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane.

Replacements:(16-23 Schalk Brits, Tendai Mtawarira, Frans Malherbe, Flip van der Merwe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Cobus Reinach, Handré Pollard, Jan Serfontein.

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