Heyneke Meyer (Gallo)
Twickenham – The Rugby World Cup semi-final
pitting New Zealand against South Africa on Saturday will be the supreme battle
of wits between their coaches Steve Hansen and Heyneke Meyer, who say they are
the best of friends off the field. Here are profiles of the two:
STEVE HANSEN – New Zealand
Hansen has been the All Blacks coach since
December 2011 and has guided them to 52 wins, two draws and three defeats which
is why they are the World Cup favourites.
Hansen is not afraid to call All Blacks
performances “ugly” or to chastise his players in public. But the
56-year-old is a brilliant tactician who has been the world coach of the year
for the past three years.
Hansen played in Canterbury for 15 years,
before becoming a manager in the provincial team and for the Crusaders. That
brought him to the attention of Wales, a slumbering rugby powerhouse where he
took over in 2002.
The national team played well but kept
losing and in 2003 lost every Six Nations match for the first time in their
history. Hansen redeemed himself by taking Wales to the World Cup quarter-final
that year. But he left in 2004 to become an assistant to his mentor Graham
Henry, the All Blacks head coach, who he had followed in the Wales job.
Henry and Hansen suffered heavy criticism
after New Zealand lost to France in the 2007 World Cup quarter-finals, but
their contracts were renewed. Their mission was to win the World Cup on home
soil in 2011. And despite crucial injury absences New Zealand beat France 8-7
in the final.
Hansen got promotion after Henry stood
down. New Zealand won the Bledisloe Cup against Australia for a 10th straight
year in 2012 and went undefeated in 13 games in 2013. A defeat to Australia
this year was a bit of a jolt, but Hansen goes into the South Africa clash
having seen his side demolish France 62-13 in the World Cup quarter-final.
HEYNEKE MEYER – South Africa
The 48-year-old Meyer took on the
Springboks role in January 2012, just a few weeks after Hansen was named All
Blacks boss. His record since stands at 31 wins, two draws and 13 defeats –
including six by New Zealand. He has also had to make two apologies to the
Like Hansen, Meyer never played for his
country, having studied sports psychology at the University of Pretoria, became
its player coach and then rose through the South African sports ranks. He
coached South West District Eagles when just 30, won three straight Currie Cup
titles with the Blue Bulls (2002-2004) and took the Bulls to the Super 14
southern hemisphere club title in 2007 — one of the peaks in an up-and-down
relationship with the Pretoria side.
Meyer led the Springboks to the 2013 Rugby
Championship decider but lost to the All Blacks 38-27. In 2014, they beat the
All Blacks for the first time since 2011 but it was to lead to a grim 2015 (so
far) which he called “the toughest year of my career”.
South Africa lost all their Rugby
Championship matches this year — including to Argentina for the first time.
Before coming to the World Cup, Meyer was accused of being racist because of
the low number of black players in the squad. Meyer apologised to the nation
after the Argentina loss and had to do it again when the Springboks lost 34-32
to Japan in their first group match. Why does he remain a coach? “I’m as
crazy as hell.”