Meyer misses small picture - Times LIVE
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Meyer misses small picture

Archie Henderson | 2012-11-26 00:29:48.0

Heyneke Meyer, a man of much anxiety, can relax.

Someone who can coach enjoyment out of the most appealing of games can now enjoy himself wherever it is the Meyer clan decamps to over the festive season.

To win all the games on tour is a massive achievement, even if the labour it took was massive too.

And Meyer can look back over his first year as Bok coach with some satisfaction: played 12, won seven, drawn two, lost three. The three in the last column were against Australia and New Zealand and the first of the two defeats by the All Blacks could easily have gone the other way.

He was lucky too.

Lucky he did not run into Ireland in the final game rather than the first. The Ireland who took Argentina to the Dublin cleaners on Saturday night were very different from the side that collapsed in the second half against the Boks.

The overwhelming impression, however, is that Meyer is a coach lacking in enterprise. As Joel Stransky has remarked, Meyer is a deeply conservative man. Just how conservative will be revealed in 2013.

He is a coach whose fear of losing is greater than his sense of adventure.

If his laboured efforts were not clear earlier in the year, they were on the tour. The huge squad he took along was bigger than the Springbok team of 1960-1961 - and that lot stayed for almost five months and played 10 times the number of games. Raymond Rhule and Elton Jantjies might feel their time on tour was wasted, even though it was said they were being introduced to the team "culture". As Goebbels was once reported to have said: "Ven I hear ze word 'culture', I reach for my revolver."

The more fortunate Boks who got more game time than cultural time are now in need of some R&R. A total tour tackle count is probably available but would make depressing reading. If rugby has come to this, then give me fridge-defrosting any time; at least I will have Nick Mallett for company.

Mallett - and Brendan Venter alongside him on TV during the England game - make up for the dull rugby. Mallett might occasionally get caught up in a maze of his own subordinate clauses but he usually makes sense, especially when he points out Nigel Owens' shortcomings. The Welshman missed an offside try (for which we were all relieved) but was criminal in reffing the front row. England loosehead Alex Corbisiero got away with murder and poor Jannie du Plessis was made to look like the guilty party. And we all know what an innocent he is.

Venter has always been one of the most cerebral observers of the game. His observation on Saturday night that small players still have a role in this wonderful game will be welcomed by many, but not, I fear, by Meyer.

Will Jantjies ever get his chance? Will Gio Aplon ever get another chance?

In an interview at the weekend, Meyer, in anticipation of those injured Boks returning to the fray in 2013, eagerly mentioned only the big guys. Yes, of course, it will be good to have Andries Bekker, Frans Steyn and even Pierre Spies back. But he also needs players who can pick the gridlock that rugby's defences have become.

Or is the running in rugby doomed to only chasing those interminable garryowens?


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