Newly appointed Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer says one of his greatest challenges will be to have the country’s Super Rugby franchises on the same page.
Meyer said on Monday that his ultimate aim would be for all the teams in South Africa to adopt a similar style of rugby.
“In future I would like to install a national style of play and defence and all the attributes that go with it, and everybody should buy in,” Meyer said.
“I am realistic and know you can’t force people to play the same, but there should at least be a common goal and places where you can touch base.”
Meyer said it would be imperative to use the Super Rugby coaches as a sounding board as they worked with the players on a day-to-day basis.
He added that communication would be key in sustaining a good relationship with the coaches.
“I would have loved to have started with an extensive planning session where we could put in a national strategy with the way we want to play, but at this stage it is a little bit late,” he said.
“My main aim is to set a great working relationship with them because they see the players much more than I do, and that is why I want to go around and spend time and see what they are doing at the franchises.”
A good grasp of the basics, Meyer said, would always be important in rugby, but he warned that South Africa needed to adapt to the law changes and new styles of play or be left behind.
“One thing that will definitely change is the conditioning of the players,” he said.
“It is a longer season and there is more games, and the games are quicker and the ball is longer in play.
“I am very concerned with conditioning and that is the main thing I will focus on.”
While the increase in work load and the dangers of fatigue were an issue, Meyer was more concerned about players’ mental toughness.
“The squads are getting bigger and I think you need to rotate players better at Super Rugby level,” he said.
“Then again I am a big believer in mental toughness and sometimes where we get it wrong — the more we talk about players being burnt out, the more they believe it.
“I want my players to be mentally tough and if you put the jersey on there shouldn’t be excuses about their conditioning.
“We need to plan better. There is a lot about rehabilitation we need to do and manage the players better.”
Meyer also gave a clear indication of how he would handle the contentious issue of overseas-based players representing the Boks.
“Heineken Cup and competitions there [Europe] are also tough and those guys are conditioned well, it is just a matter that they peak at different times,” he said.
“I’ve thought about a few things, how we can work around it, and you also need the overseas-based players to buy in.
“I have a few ideas I want to discuss with them and their clubs and see if we can get to a win-win solution.”
He emphasised that he was committed to transformation in rugby but cautioned that it needed to be a priority at all levels of the sport.
“We all need to work together and I am committed to transformation and, like Mr Roux [Saru CEO Jurie Roux] said, there also needs to be transformation in the hearts and minds of people.” — Sapa