Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Meyer Critics Sharpen Their Knives Ahead of 'Must-Win' Showdown

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Meyer Critics Sharpen Their Knives Ahead of 'Must-Win' Showdown

Article excerpt

Byline: Matt Majendie Sports Correspondent

WHEN South Africa lost against Japan in the greatest shock in Rugby World Cup history, the country's sports minister berated them the next day.

Fikile Mbalula called them "a bunch of losers" before chanting "donner hulle, bliksem hulle", which translates as "beat them up, beat them to death".

The minister in question has been prone to such outbursts in the past, using the "bunch of losers" tag to describe the team following a string of defeats last year and calling a ministerial rival "an attention-seeking drama queen".

But the point is that South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer, who was also on the receiving end of a phone call from Mbalula, finds his job on the line and, unless he oversees a dramatic turnaround, he may struggle to hold onto his post in what has perpetually been a volatile role.

The Springboks find themselves in the midst of their biggest rugby crisis in post-apartheid South Africa and knowing that in all probability they will be remembered from the tournament as the team vanquished by Japan unless they go on to win it.

Meyer is of the belief that his side can still win it, a sentiment hardly matched by the South African public and the wider rugbywatching fraternity. The Boks were already under fire after finishing bottom in this year's Rugby Championship and being beaten by Argentina in the process, with critics suggesting the players are over-coached and unable to think for themselves, while Meyer is supposedly manipulated by the senior players.

It is to his senior men that Meyer has looked in his hour of need in a match which he said "the whole country depends on" against Samoa, most notably centre Jean de Villiers.

There had been calls to drop the 34 year old, who recovered from a dislocated knee in November and more recently a broken jaw to play in the 34-32 defeat by Japan, and Meyer admitted the decision to keep De Villiers in his starting line-up had been "one of the most difficult decisions of my life". …

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