It has finally happened. The most decorated coach in the country, Bulls supremo Heyneke Meyer, has been unveiled as the latest Springbok coach.
His appointment comes four years after he was done a great injustice, when last-minute political meddling saw Peter de Villiers replace Jake White.
In the words of SARU President Oregan Hoskins, Meyer lost out back in 2008 for reasons other than rugby considerations.
But now he gets his chance and Jan de Koning gives you some very good reasons why Meyer is the right man for the job:
1. He personifies professionalism through the three D’s - determination, dedication and decisiveness.
2. Behind the guarded, tough exterior is a loyal person - not just a family man and a man of faith, but above all, he is a man that never regards himself as bigger than the game.
3. He is articulate - a person who can explain the game and its intricate tactics to even the most unvarnished of observers, never getting overly excited.
4. He thrives on challenges - the tougher the better. Having studied sports psychology at the University of Pretoria, his motivational abilities are legendary. Two matches that epitomise this are the record 92-3 victory over the Reds in 2007 the Super 14 Final two weeks later. That win over the Reds saw the Bulls go from fifth to second on the standings in 80 minutes of blurry heart-stopping action en route to their first Super Rugby title. In the final, against the Sharks, the Men from Durban were leading 19-13 with time up, but the Bulls retained the ball through multiple phases for about two minutes to score the winning try well into injury-time.
5. His indomitable spirit is also evident in his own life and career. He was fired three times by the Bulls and even spat on by supporters, but kept coming back and between 2002 and 2007 won not only their first Super Rugby championship, but also four Currie Cup titles. In his own words: "I asked a lot of people to believe in me, to trust in me; but, importantly, I had to back myself as well. You have to believe in yourself, but for me it was really critical not to 'drop' the people around me, the people who believed in me." He is the only coach who can boast Super Rugby, Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup glory on his resume.
6. There is his extraordinary knowledge of the game. Legendary Bok lock Victor Matfield once told this website that Meyer taught him everything about rugby. "He installed everything [I know] and the way I look at rugby. Heyneke got me as a youngster and made me."
7. He has experience at all levels in the game - from schools and club rugby, through to provincial and Super Rugby. But most of all he has already had a stint at international level. In first-class rugby he coached the SWD Eagles, when the George-based team went on to reach the Currie Cup semifinals for the first and only time in their history, he was an assistant coach for the Stormers when they reached their first Super Rugby semifinal in 1999, helped the Bulls win five major trophies and most of all he was an assistant coach for the Springboks at the 1999 World Cup when a fluky Stephen Larkham drop-goal knocked them out in the semifinals. Between 1988 and 1996, Meyer coached a variety of teams, from high school first teams to Carlton League teams. An interesting fact is that during this period all the teams under his charge reached at least a semifinal berth in every season.
8. He always surrounds himself with winners and experts in their field. It is thus not surprising that a number of his backroom staff at Loftus are in high demand at SARU headquarters.
9. He is not afraid to tap into the expertise of others. From his early days at Tukkies - when people like Daan Swiegers, Dawie Marais and John Williams taught him "everything" - he has always been willing to learn and grow.
10. His organisational skills - his meticulous planning and ability to put in place workable systems - has left the Bulls well-placed to remain a force for decades to come.
11. His ability to spot talent and find the players that suit his vision for the game. Take the Hougaards who he poached from Cape Town, Bakkies Botha from the Falcons, luring Matfield back from Griquas, Bryan Habana from the Lions, etc. He has a habit of moving key players to different positions with great success.
12. It is just reward, for a rugby man through and through, after the disgraceful way he was treated in 2008.
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