Heyneke Meyer says he has full backing of South Africa squad

Springboks coach criticised by country’s biggest trade union for ‘racist choices’

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer says he has the full backing of his players after the country’s largest trade union accused him of making ‘racist choices’ when picking his squad. Photograph: Getty

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer says he has the full backing of his players after the country’s largest trade union accused him of making ‘racist choices’ when picking his squad. Photograph: Getty

 

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer says he has the full backing of his players and is committed to a transformation in Springbok rugby after coming under fire from the country’s largest trade union.

Media reports suggested five black players had approached the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) with grievances over their non-selection for recent matches, which led the organisation to call for Meyer to be sacked over what they termed “racist choices”.

But the 47-year-old says his players have rallied around him and dismissed Cosatu’s claims.

“A lot of them came to me and said, ‘coach, it’s not true what’s in the papers. We stand by you, we know exactly where we stand’,” Meyer told reporters on Wednesday.

“You’re always going to get players that are unhappy if they don’t play. I don’t look at colour, I look at the best players. I’m totally committed to transformation and I have a great relationship with my players.”

Two black players, Zimbabwe-born Tendai Mtawarira and Bryan Habana, were in the starting line-up for the shock 37-25 loss to Argentina in Durban on Saturday.

After four test defeats in a row, Meyer’s position has come under scrutiny, something he acknowledged while reading a statement at the announcement of the team to face Argentina.

Second Captains

“They say that sport or rugby builds character. It doesn’t build character, it reveals character. When I took the job I said it’s not about me, this job is bigger than the individual.

“The most important thing for me is to keep my integrity. I know there is a lot of criticism. I don’t have any excuses and I know where the public comes from.

“There is a lot of negativity and I understand that, but like I said from the start, I’m going to keep my integrity and that’s more important to me than just winning.”

Saturday’s match in Argentina is the final warm-up for South Africa ahead of the World Cup and Meyer has made eight changes to the side beaten by Los Pumas last time out.

Victor Matfield returns to captain South Africa, while Leinster fullback Zane Kirchner, wing Lwazi Mvovo, flyhalf Pat Lambie, loose-forward Willem Alberts, and frontrowers Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss and Trevor Nyakane have all been handed their first starts of 2015.

Centre Jan Serfontein and hooker Schalk Brits have also been included in the match-23 for the first time this season.

Kirchner takes over at fullback from the injured Willie le Roux, and Jesse Kriel moves from wing to centre for Jean de Villiers, who is out for between four and six weeks with a fractured jaw.

Alberts replaces the injured Marcell Coetzee in what will be his first test in more than a year.

South Africa: Zane Kirchner, Lwazi Mvovo, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana, Pat Lambie, Ruan Pienaar, Schalk Burger, Willem Alberts, Heinrich Brussow, Victor Matfield (captain), Eben Etzebeth, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane

Replacements: Schalk Brits, Tendai Mtawarira, Frans Malherbe, Flip van der Merwe, Pieter-Steph du Toit,Cobus Reinach, Handre Pollard, Jan Serfontein

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