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From Agence France-Presse
You don’t have to be mad to be a rugby coach, but South Africa‘s Heyneke Meyer believes it definitely helps.
Meyer said Wednesday he wants to remain as Springboks coach despite their helter-skelter campaign at the tournament, and that maybe why he declared himself a “total nutter.”
The 48-year-old Meyer’s position has been in doubt since the Springboks suffered the biggest upset in World Cup history when they lost their opening match to Japan.
They eventually reached the semi-final where they lost to defending champions New Zealand on Saturday.
Meyer has apologised to his rugby-mad nation three times in three months for defeats suffered by the national side. But he cannot give up.
“I just know rugby gives this nation hope and if I can be part of the solution then I want to be part of it,” Meyer said as he announced his team for Friday’s third place play-off against Argentina.
“It’s easy to criticise and I’ve probably made a lot of mistakes, but I’m a positive person, I want to be part of the solution,” he added.
“Seeing the youngsters coming through, if I can make a difference in any capacity I’ll do it.”
Mayer said he loves rugby and the courage of its characters.
“Look at a guy like Duane Vermeulen, a warrior, his neck was injured, you don’t think he’ll even play one game then he comes out and plays like that.”
Vermeulen had an operation on his neck in July but returned for World Cup duty.
— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) October 30, 2015
“I think you have to be crazy and you have to love people.
“And I’m totally crazy, I’m a total nutter.
“Sometimes on the video I can’t believe it’s me, but that’s who I am on the sidelines.
“I just love my country and I love people, and if I can make a difference so be it.”
Meyer also has no illusions about the task ahead.
“I must say this is a tough job but still an honour.”
Meyer said he believed the South African squad, a mixture of young talent such as Handre Pollard and veterans like try-scoring machine Bryan Habana, “will be invincible” if they can be kept together.
This Friday’s third-place decider against Argentina will see some fond farewells among his Springbok warriors however.
Veteran lock Victor Matfield will captain South Africain probably his last appearance at the London Olympic Stadium.
The 38-year-old Matfield, making his 127th Test appearance, replaces Fourie du Preez as skipper after the scrum-half suffered a tournament-ending injury in the 20-18 semi-final defeat by New Zealand.
Matfield and du Preez were members of SouthAfrica‘s World Cup-winning side in 2007. Meyer brought both out of retirement for international duty.
Matfield retired after the 2011 World Cup but returned last year with the Bulls following encouragement from Meyer.
Second row great Matfield made his Test debut on June 30, 2001 against Italy. His Test career, which on Friday will be 14 years and 122 days, will be the longest in Springbok rugby.
Du Preez did not make the bench this time after suffering a swollen eye and broken tooth against the All Blacks.
Du Preez said after the semi-final that it was probably his last Springbok appearance.
© 1994-2015 Agence France-Press
Ultimate Blue Bull Matfield has no regrets about “un-retiring”
South Africa great Victor Matfield insisted he had no regrets about coming out of retirement as he prepared to play his final match for the Springboks.
The 38-year-old lock will bring the curtain down on his illustrious international career when he captains South Africa against Argentina in Friday’s World Cup third place play-off at London’s Olympic Stadium.
It may not be the way 2007 World Cup-winner Matfield wanted to finish. His aim in giving up coaching duties at the Bulls was to help South Africa lift the Webb Ellis Trophy in England.
However, there were those in South Africa who saw Matfield’s move, made at the request of Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, as a backward step.
South Africa‘s shock defeat by Japan in their pool opener — the greatest upset in World Cup history — did little to improve the mood amongst Springbok fans.
And although the team recovered to reach the last four, dreams of an unprecedented third World Cup title died with a 20-18 semi-final loss to New Zealand, the defending champions, at Twickenham last weekend.
“There hasn’t really been a lot of emotions this week about myself,” said Matfield on Thursday ahead of his 127th Test.
“I think the second time it’s a bit easier,” explained Matfield, who initially called time on his Test career after South Africa‘s quarter-final defeat by Australia at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand.
“I came back out of retirement to hopefully help this team win the World Cup. Unfortunately, we didn’t do that. We came very close.
“But I think after that Japan game something special happened to this team. It’s just been an unbelievable privilege to be part of that. Tomorrow, hopefully we can end on a high and do something special for this team and the country.”
Matfield made his Test debut on June 30, 2001 against Italy. His Test career, which on Friday will be 14 years and 122 days, will be the longest in Springbok rugby.
“It will be after the game I will reflect back and say it was a good innings,” said the second row stalwart.
“I enjoyed the (last) two years, enjoyed every moment in the green and gold.”
Asked about the highlights of his return to Test duty, Matfield said: “There were a few. Captaining the side against Wales in South Africa when I came back and then being involved in the one game when we beat New Zealand in South Africa (27-25 in Johannesburg last year) was very special.”
Matfield is now set to finish against an Argentina side who beat South Africa for the first time in August with a 37-25 victory in Durban.
“They’ve done unbelievably well,” said South Africa assistant coach Johann van Graan of the Pumas who have added back-line flair to their traditional forward strength.
“They’ve grown as a team. They’ve some world-class forwards and their backs have been unbelievable this tournament.
“Tomorrow will be a massive Test match between two of the top nations in the world,” he predicted.
© 1994-2015 Agence France-Presse
Teams for the World Cup third place play-off between Argentina and South Africa at London’s Olympic Stadium on Friday (2000 GMT kick-off):
Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino; Santiago Cordero, Matias Moroni, Jeronimo de la Fuente, Horacio Agulla; Nicolas Sanchez (capt), Tomas Cubelli; Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, Juan Manuel Leguizamon, Javier Ortega Desio; Tomas Lavanini, Matías Alemanno; Ramiro Herrera, Julian Montoya, Marcos Ayerza
Replacements: Lucas Noguera, Juan Pablo Orlandi, Juan Figallo, Guido Petti, Facundo Isa, Martin Landajo, Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, Juan Pablo Socino
Coach: Daniel Hourcade (ARG)
Willie le Roux; JP Pietersen, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana; Handre Pollard, Ruan Pienaar; Duane Vermeulen, Schalk Burger, Francois Louw; Victor Matfield (capt), Eben Etzebeth; Frans Malherbe, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Jannie du Plessis, Lood de Jager, Willem Alberts, Rudy Paige, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein
Coach: Heyneke Meyer (RSA)
Referee: John Lacey (IRL)
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