Meyer’s future still uncertain
This is the most probable inference to be made from the responses of the SA Rugby Union (Saru) and the Springbok team’s management ahead of the start of the Rugby Championship on Saturday.
The Springboks will play Australia in their opening game in Brisbane in a tournament truncated to a single round due to the impending World Cup in September and October.
Meyer’s contract expires after the World Cup – now 68 days away – and City Press has established that he is in talks with Saru about an extension.
Unlike with Jake White and Peter de Villiers in the lead-up to the 2007 and 2011 World Cups, respectively, when it was made clear that their ties to the Boks would be cut, it seems the door has been left open for Meyer.
However, enquiries to Saru CEO Jurie Roux did not yield a clear-cut answer.
“We will make announcements at the appropriate time – but we would ask supporters to allow us to do our work out of the public eye out of respect for the interests of all parties,” was all he was prepared to say
Roux currently has his own battles to fight.
Last week saw the dismissal of referees manager Andre Watson after a Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) ruling went against him.
In the process, it was revealed that Roux was being sued by Stellenbosch University for alleged misappropriation of funds while he was chairperson of the Maties rugby club.
Meyer, in the midst of preparing his team for their first game of the season against the World 15 at Newlands yesterday, was unavailable for comment and team manager Ian Schwartz was unable to cast any light on whether the coach would be staying on or not.
However, the fact that Meyer is involved in talks would indicate that an extension of his contract is being negotiated – rather than a departure.
But the fact that it is still up in the air means the coach, like many of the players, is unsettled as the build-up to the World Cup begins in earnest.
The backdrop of a critical list of injuries is not ideal as the Boks prepare to take on the Wallabies, the All Blacks and Argentina in the Rugby Championship.
Their only away game will be the forthcoming test against the Wallabies at a venue where they have often struggled – the Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.
It will be a tough encounter. against an Australian collective coming off a poor Super Rugby campaign, with coach Michael Cheika under pressure to produce results.
Though Meyer has indicated that victory in the Rugby Championship may have to be written off in favour of turning it into a World Cuppreparation exercise, Cheika will be out to get the Wallabies back on the winning track.
Instead of nursing his players, the tough-talking Cheika wants his men to gain a psychological lift by beating the All Blacks and the Springboks – especially as the Australians are drawn in the World Cup’s toughest pool, where they will meet England and Wales.
Although the Australians struggled through Super Rugby, they can put together a formidable test team.
With world-rated players Israel Folau, David Pocock, Tevita Kuridrani and Kurtley Beale being bolstered by new caps such as Taqele Naiyaravoro and the return of Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell from France, it’s going to be difficult for the Boks to tie down the Wallabies.
The All Blacks, however, still reign supreme, having won the Rugby Championship three times in succession since the Tri-Nations was expanded in 2012 to include the Argentinian Pumas.
HARD PLAY Head coach Heyneke Meyer (left) chats with assistant coach Johann van Graan ahead of the World