Heyneke Meyer (AP)
Twickenham – South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer apologised for the third time in three months on Saturday after his side gave up the lead to the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals.
Meyer was disappointed that the Springboks failed to take advantage of a 12-7 half-time lead and a one-man advantage to get a place in the final.
“We should have capitalised on it,” he said.
“I want to thank all the people for their support, I am really sorry we let them down today,” he added after the 20-18 defeat at a rain-sodden Twickenham.
Meyer made a public apology in August when the Springboks lost at home to Argentina for the first time. He apologised to the nation at the start of the World Cup when the South Africans lost their first match to Japan 34-32 – the biggest shock in the tournament’s history.
“I am very proud, a lot of people didn’t give us a chance (after Japan),” said Meyer.
But he insisted: “Only a win is good enough for South Africa. I don’t believe in loser talk.”
Meyer, under immense pressure after the Japan loss, was non-committal about his own future, saying only: “I am here to serve.”
The coach said South Africa “had a perfect first half, with the right game-plan.” They led at the break thanks to four penalties from flyhalf Handre Pollard that topped a converted try by New Zealand flank Jerome Kaino.
“But our discipline in the second half was just not good enough. They coped better with the weather in the second half,” he added.
“Discipline was the most important thing today, especially in these rainy conditions.
“We wanted to make our country proud but we didn’t. We should have pulled this win through but all credit to the All Blacks, they are a quality side.”
Springbok captain Fourie du Preez was left heartbroken by the narrow margin of defeat.
“Just two points. But credit to both teams,” the scrumhalf said.
“They kept the pressure on us. We struggled to get out of our own half.”
South Africa great Schalk Burger was also disconsolate. “We created opportunities today, unfortunately for us we came up two points short,” he said. “I’ve seen this movie before and it’s bloody horrible.”
That Burger, a 2007 World Cup-winner, played at all this tournament was impressive given that only two years ago the flanker was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis before overcoming the potentially life-threatening condition.
“Two years ago, it was not possible for me to be in the semi-final,” said Burger.
“It’s painful tonight but one day when I am older it will be able to reflect that it was an amazing comeback.
“It was a massive effort and sometimes in life you just don’t win.”
South Africa still have one more match to play at this World Cup, the third place playoff against the losers of Sunday’s second semi-final between Argentina and Australia.
“Mentally, it’s very tough,” said Meyer of next week’s match at London’s Olympic Stadium.
“It does not mean anything to me. It is like kissing your sister.”