Heyneke Meyer, former University of Pretoria student and Mopanie resident, has been the head coach of the South African national rugby team for over a year. He was previously head coach of the Blue Bulls and an advisor to the 2011 Tuks Varsity Cup team. Meyer sat down with Perdeby for a rare exclusive interview to speak about what it’s like to be honoured with the highest position available to rugby coaches.
Can you describe your first year as coach of the Springboks?
Representing South Africa as the Springbok coach is such an honour. However, I have a huge responsibility to the nation as the hopes and dreams of the country rest on my shoulders. What makes my job so enjoyable is seeing the smiles on the people’s faces when the Springboks do well. My first year as a national coach was difficult as I only had one week to prepare for their England Incoming Tour and all my assistants were busy with their respective Super Rugby unions for a large part of my preparations. What I’ve found encouraging is that the Springboks started the 2012 season as the fourth-best country in the world and ended as the second best. However, we need to close the gap between South Africa and New Zealand.
What was your highlight of the 2012 Springbok season?
The end-of-year tour was definitely my highlight of 2012. The players dug deep to perform as it was the end of another gruelling year of rugby. The Springboks did well to end the tour unbeaten.
Being the national coach comes with a lot of pressure. How do you deal with the pressure and could the techniques you use be used successfully by university students?
I have always said that I do not know what the secret to success is but I do know what the secret to failure is, and [that] is trying to make everyone happy. I think it is important, especially for students, to be true to themselves and to do things for the right reasons, for the love of it. Students need to have a vision and not compromise on that vision. While I was a student at the University of Pretoria, I already had a dream of being a prominent rugby coach and through hard work and sacrifice, I have achieved that.
Will you still be assisting TuksRugby now that you are the national coach?
As the national coach, I have to maintain an air of neutrality. My assistant coaches and I have been travelling around South Africa helping where we can. Obviously, I will always have a soft spot for Tuks but I am no longer assisting TuksRugby.
What is your prediction for Tuks in this year’s Varsity Cup?
Tuks has the right facilities, structures and mindset to defend their title. As losing becomes a habit, so does winning. Nollis has achieved so much as a coach and there are an established group of senior players and exciting youngsters. There is no reason why the University of Pretoria cannot win the 2013 Varsity Cup.