Heyneke Meyer (Gallo)
Twickenham – South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer forecast a bright future for his side despite their agonising defeat by New Zealand in a gripping Rugby World Cup semi-final.
Veteran flyhalf Dan Carter was the All Black hero of the day and Meyer predicted several of the young Springboks would be Carter-style superstars of rugby.
South Africa, for whom Handre Pollard kicked four penalties, gave up a 12-7 half-time lead at a rain-swept Twickenham on Saturday.
But a youthful South Africa squad undoubtedly have the nucleus of a side that can challenge for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
“A lot of these guys will be the Carters of tomorrow and world-beaters,” said Meyer whose own future could be in doubt.
“That makes me really excited for the future of rugby in South Africa.”
Springbok back-row Francois Louw highlighted how the 21-year-old Pollard, centres Jesse Kriel (also 21) and Damian de Allende (23), as well as locks Eben Etzebeth (23) and Lodewyk de Jager (22) all have a long Test career ahead.
“You look at our
“They’re young in age but not in experience. They’re taking control there.
“Look at our centre pairing with our flyhalf. All three of those boys are 21, 22. There’s a massive future for those guys,” the 30-year-old blindside flank added.
The Springboks started the World Cup with a shock 34-32 loss to Japan – the biggest upset in the history of international rugby union.
“It was a massive learning curve for us all,” said Louw.
“To be thrown in such a deep hole, to climb out and claw our way back into the semi-final.
“They know what it feels like to lose. They’ve all experienced that now and I think there’s a big future for them in the Springbok team.”
For the veteran Victor Matfield, 38, and captain Fourie du Preez – who suffered a broken tooth and swollen eye – the World Cup is probably the end of the international road. Even for Meyer, who became Springbok coach in January 2012, the future remains uncertain.
The 48-year-old’s contract expires after the World Cup and the South Africa Rugby Union have yet to say if it will be renewed.
“You can see how grey I am,” joked Meyer when asked if he would stay in his job.
“But I have always said I am here to serve. I only wanted to make the country proud – not of me but the team,” he insisted.
This week Meyer suggested the current New Zealand side were the greatest team rugby had known.
He also revealed how Steve Hansen was a friend and Meyer found time to congratulate the All Blacks’ coach after Saturday’s match.
“I always believe a champion is off the field and on,” Meyer explained. “I just said, ‘Well done, you guys were better and good luck for the final’.”
South Africa will now have to pick themselves up for Friday’s
“Mentally, it’s very tough,” said Meyer. “It does not mean anything to me. It is like kissing your sister.”