Wednesday 20 March 2019

'I'm totally crazy... a total nutter' - Heyneke Meyer on wanting to stay on as Springbok boss

South Africa's head coach Heyneke Meyer
South Africa's head coach Heyneke Meyer

Nick Purewal

Heyneke Meyer has branded himself "a total nutter" for wanting to continue as South Africa boss after the World Cup.

The South African Rugby Union could still opt to replace Meyer as Springboks head coach following Friday's third-place play-off against Argentina.

Meyer retains huge backing and popularity among the Springboks squad however, and revealed he will continue coaching at the highest level possible after the World Cup.

Victor Matfield will captain South Africa in his 127th and final Test against the Pumas, with Fourie du Preez ruled out through concussion.

"I just know rugby gives this nation hope and if I can be part of the solution then I want to be part of it," said Meyer, branding himself a glutton for punishment through coaching.

"It's easy to criticise and I've probably made a lot of mistakes, but I'm a positive person, I want to be part of the solution.

"Seeing the youngsters coming through, if I can make a difference in any capacity I'll do it.

"I just love rugby, what it stands for.

"I just love it. Look at a guy like Duane Vermeulen, a warrior, his neck was injured, you don't think he'll even play one game then he comes out and plays like that.

"I think you have to be crazy and you have to love people.

"And I'm totally crazy, I'm a total nutter.

"Sometimes on the video I can't believe it's me, but that's who I am on the sidelines.

"I just love my country and I love people, and if I can make a difference so be it.

"But I must say this is a tough job but still an honour.

"I truly believe in this team, I think they will get better.

"I think this team will be invincible if they go forward and we can keep them together.

"If you do make a difference then it's worthwhile coaching.

"If I coach a small team or the Springboks I just love it.

"I'll keep on coaching, and just keep on loving it and being crazy as hell."

Meyer's unbridled passion and raw energy has lit up the Springboks' drive to the World Cup semi-finals, following their shock opening defeat to Japan.

The 48-year-old's candid expression of emotion has handed new humility to the Springboks, but also clearly uplifted a squad of superstars.

Meyer labelled contesting the third-place play-off "like kissing your sister" after last weekend's 20-18 semi-final defeat to New Zealand.

But after refocusing his efforts, the former Blue Bulls and Leicester Tigers coach vowed the Springboks will throw everything at aiming to finish third.

South Africa's World Cup campaign faced opposition even before it started, with the Agency for New Agenda (ANA) party attempting to block the Springboks from taking part.

The ANA failed with a legal challenge to ban the Springboks from travelling to England, claiming there should be more black players in the squad.

The issue of transformation will continue to dog South African rugby after the World Cup - but Meyer insisted there remains a great deal to shout about.

"I tell you what I enjoy, a guy like Bakkies (Botha) being a rough diamond," said Meyer, continuing to lay bare his coaching soul.

"In the previous World Cup he had to give a jersey to someone who made the biggest difference in his life, and Bakkies gave his jersey to me.

"I still treasure that.

"I don't have any rugby memorabilia in my house.

"I still have it, it's not on my wall but it's in a safe place and one day when I'm very, very old I'll put it up.

"That means a lot to me.

"The one thing I love about rugby, you're always around guys who want to be excellent, and that's different from any other job.

"I'm almost speaking like it's my last game.

"There was a beggar on crutches at Ellis Park, he only had one leg, but once the Springbok bus pulled up he just left everything, fell on his knees, and you could see that made a difference.

"This week before the game a little girl with cancer phoned us.

"A lot of the players sent her good luck messages, but she came back and inspired us.

"She said 'I'm going to get through it, just go out there and do it for the country'.

"That's what keeps you going, when you're down on your knees, but there's still people waiting hours for a signature.

"And you think 'why the hell do you want a signature from me, I've just cost the country the biggest trophy in the world'.

"I take it personally, it is tough, people burning jerseys before we even start, people wanting to take us to court.

"That's not an excuse. I've had so many positive texts from politicians who I thought were really against me.

"I'm really excited about the future of South African rugby.

"I thought we did bring hope to the country, hopefully we can take that into one more game and then into the future as well.

"There's still one more job to do, they have to go out there with a bang and play like the best team in the world."

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