Heyneke Meyer wants intense pressure to create new Springbok diamonds

South Africa get World Cup back on track with victory over Samoa but injuries mount up

Uncompromising Springbok secondrow Eben Etzebeth manhandles Samoa’s Ken Pisi at Villa Park. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Uncompromising Springbok secondrow Eben Etzebeth manhandles Samoa’s Ken Pisi at Villa Park. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

 

Wales think they have it bad; South Africa are torn to ribbons after this wincingly brutal Samoan affair. Thirty-eight-year- old Victor Matfield must prove his fitness before acceding to the sacred Springbok captaincy for Scotland next Saturday following the demise of the accursed Jean De Villiers.

De Villiers fractured a new part of his jaw tackling Tim Nani-Williams in the 72nd minute yet still, heroically, returned to the field for a bloodied Jesse Kriel.

“Jean is not only our captain but the glue of this team and to lose him is very sad,” said Heyneke Meyer. “We are all very heartbroken for him and we will miss his influence a lot.”

Clasped

It leaves a permanent stain on the former Munster centre’s international career.

The Bokke – South Africa’s travelling hoard – would only have forgiven him the Japan defeat if he clasped the William Webb Ellis trophy on October 31st (Meyer may be beyond absolution even then).

The contrast between the standing ovation Matfield received on his departure and the near silence as Jesse Kriel galloped in for De Villiers was noteworthy.

Maybe all these creaking elders will set the Springboks free. Kriel and Damien de Allende unearthed flaws in the Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith partnership last July but Jan Serfontein, badly exposed by Ireland last November, could start against Scotland’s in-form midfield of Matt Scott and Mark Bennett. Kriel seemed concussed.

The enormous Lood De Jager looms over a hamstrung Matfield as the brilliant Eben Etzebeth’s eventual secondrow partner. They are a combined seven years older than their wizardly lineout mentor.

Schalk Burger is next in line to lead. If fit. He also left the fray early.

“Whenever the Springboks are under pressure coach Heyneke has got this story about how charcoal under big, big pressure becomes diamonds,” said Matfield. “That’s what the guys showed but we are still under the same pressure.”

Easing back from the precipice, they seemed to love being Springboks again.

Etzebeth was happy to be evil, wasting no time bumping Samoa’s trouble-seeking Joe Tekori. He also took a few belts from Alesana Tuilagi. His power is frightening. He’s 23.

“A lot of boys would walk through fire for Heyneke now,” Matfield assured us.

But no diamonds yet.

Needs help

“We are a country that needs help,” Meyer continued.

“We are a country that needs forgiveness, that needs to be together for each other and forgiving each other. We really want to make the country proud. There are a lot of bad things in the country but a lot of great things as well.

“The Springboks is the hope of the country. If the Springboks do well the country is in a better state. We are a proud nation and only winning is good enough. It is a burden but it is also an honour.”

Scotland will consume them from this morning until another soccer stadium, St James’ Park, welcomes their Vortreek deeper into northern England.

“It’s been the toughest year of my career,” said Meyer. “Last week will stay with me for the rest of my life and motivate me to just be true to myself.”

A text from arch rival, All Black coach Steve Hansen, filled Meyer with Corinthian joy.

“Steve is a quality guy, as well as a good coac. He knows we were under pressure. It will remains between me and Steve but it just shows the character of the guy. I think at one stage professionalism had moved away from that. That it’s back in rugby I think is great.

“With the All Blacks and as rugby coaches we try to kill each other on the field but we as coaches can still support each other. I’ve been here a few times, but it is tough on your family. When it is tough on your family, it’s personal.”

Vanquish

It took some iron control to vanquish Samoa.

Handrè Pollard and Willie Le Roux also performed with verve and class to create a hat-trick of tries for JP Pietersen and a late touchdown for Bryan Habana. But the source was forward dominance and the enduring mastery of scrumhalf Fourie du Preez.

Blindside TJ Ioane made an astonishing 23 tackles, including the bone-jarring halt of Strauss early on, but that’s not all Samoa were about. The dancing feet of Nanai-Williams (cousin of Sonny Bill) created the greatest try of the tournament only for it to be rubbed from the records. With South Africa tracking a bonus point, Williams counter-attacked, chipping Le Roux, gathering left handed and offloading marginally forward before Kahn Fotuali’i put Tusi Pisi clear. Barnes went to the big screen and all its angles. Shame.

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