Meyer’s blood won’t be blue

Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – Protracted, often very productive spells at the Bulls over a near 12-year period may give the impression that new Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer’s blood is strongly “blue”.

But he has assured Sport24 that despite his understandable, long-term affection for the Loftus franchise at both Super Rugby and Currie Cup level since he first took up a post as their Super 12 coach in 2000, he is squarely focused now on the green tinge to the national cause.

Perhaps some people may have forgotten, too, that a very important part of his rise as an unusually youthful coach in the late 1990s came in a spell as an assistant at the Stormers.

“You know it’s ironic: when I first came up to coach at the Bulls everyone (teased) me and thought I was a Stormers supporter,” Meyer told Sport24 after his Bok appointment on Friday. “Nowadays people probably consider me a Bulls fan.

“But you are obviously loyal to your team and like every single coach you just want to win; it doesn’t matter who you pick.

“Obviously there are a lot of Bulls players I believed in when I moved there, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone.

“But it’s very important to me to be viewed as coach of the whole nation. In a sense that may be unfair to a few of the Bulls players because in a 50-50 situation I might (be inclined to) go for the others.

“I promise you, if you want to win you simply have to pick the best team you can. I don’t envisage there being any provincialism even if some people may inevitably see it that way.

“I just want what’s best for the Springbok team ... I’m clear in my mind about that.”

Meyer, now 44, was still in his early thirties when Stormers head coach Alan Solomons roped him into that fold, after he had earned good reports in his tenure with the SWD Eagles.

He was with the Capetonian franchise during their “Men in Black” boom-time, when the personable young Bob Skinstad was captain, before his arguably career-influencing car accident, and the side made it to the semi-finals of the Super 12 before bowing out to the Highlanders at Newlands after an unsettling pre-match dispute with the administration.

Nelspruit-born Meyer recalls: “Yes, my spell with the Stormers was one of the very first steps toward attaining my (Bok) goal. I’m very, very thankful to Alan Solomons and then later Nick Mallett.

“They’ve been mentors and I learnt a lot at that time, when the Stormers went through quite a successful period. It was a huge part of my development.

“Nick (in his capacity as Bok coach at the time) then asked me to move to the Bulls to help in uplifting them.”

So Meyer can certainly be said to healthily straddle the great “north-south” rugby divide in South Africa ...