You don’t have to be mad to be a World Cup rugby coach, but South Africa’s Heyneke Meyer believes it definitely helps.
Meyer said Wednesday he wants to remain as Springboks coach despite their helter-skelter campaign at the tournament, and that’s maybe why he declared himself a “total nutter.”
The 48-year-old Meyer’s position has been in doubt since the Springboks suffered the biggest upset in World Cup history when they lost their opening match to Japan.
They eventually reached the semi-final where they lost to defending champions New Zealand on Saturday.
Meyer has apologised to his rugby-mad nation three times in three months for defeats suffered by the national side. But he cannot give up.
“I just know rugby gives this nation hope and if I can be part of the solution then I want to be part of it,” Meyer said as he announced his team for Friday’s third place play-off against Argentina.
“It’s easy to criticise and I’ve probably made a lot of mistakes, but I’m a positive person, I want to be part of the solution,” he added.
“Seeing the youngsters coming through, if I can make a difference in any capacity I’ll do it.”
Mayer said he loves rugby and the courage of its characters.
“Look at a guy like Duane Vermeulen, a warrior, his neck was injured, you don’t think he’ll even play one game then he comes out and plays like that.”
Vermeulen had an operation on his neck in July but returned for World Cup duty.
“I think you have to be crazy and you have to love people.
“And I’m totally crazy, I’m a total nutter.
“Sometimes on the video I can’t believe it’s me, but that’s who I am on the sidelines.
“I just love my country and I love people, and if I can make a difference so be it.”
Meyer also has no illusions about the task ahead.
“I must say this is a tough job but still an honour.”
Meyer said he believed the South African squad, a mixture of young talent such as Handre Pollard and veterans like try-scoring machine Bryan Habana, “will be invincible” if they can be kept together.
This Friday’s third-place decider against Argentina will see some fond farewells among his Springbok warriors however.
Veteran lock Victor Matfield will captain South Africa in probably his last appearance at the London Olympic Stadium.
The 38-year-old Matfield, making his 127th Test appearance, replaces Fourie du Preez as skipper after the scrum-half suffered a tournament-ending injury in the 20-18 semi-final defeat by New Zealand.
Matfield and du Preez were members of South Africa’s World Cup-winning side in 2007. Meyer brought both out of retirement for international duty.
Matfield retired after the 2011 World Cup but returned last year with the Bulls following encouragement from Meyer.
Second row great Matfield made his Test debut on June 30, 2001 against Italy. His Test career, which on Friday will be 14 years and 122 days, will be the longest in Springbok rugby.
Du Preez did not make the bench this time after suffering a swollen eye and broken tooth against the All Blacks.
Du Preez said after the semi-final that it was probably his last Springbok appearance.