Springbok coach Meyer apologises to South Africa

Jean de Villiers has been ruled out of the Rugby World Cup

Springbok head coach Heyneke Meyer has apologised to the South African nation
after his team were beaten 32-34 by World Rugby minnows Japan in Brighton.

Meyer’s Springboks were beaten in the third minute of extra time when Karne
Hesketh scored in the corner for Japan.

Japan’s Brave Blossom’s kept South Africa under pressure throughout the match
and could have settled for the draw when they were awarded a penalty just before
half time but chose to go for the victory and backed their scrum.

South Africa’s coach Meyer had named their most experienced team in their history
with 851 caps in their starting team.

“It is by far the worst moment of my coaching career,” said Meyer
after the 34-32 defeat in Brighton. “This is a very big wake up call.”

The 47-year-old — whose side had already been the victims of a historic defeat
by Argentina in the Rugby Championship last month — said the Springboks must
now lift themselves up and win their remaining pool matches to try to top Pool
B.

“We represent a proud nation and I apologise to the nation. We have got
to take it on the chin and get back on track.

“It won’t be easy for us to do that. But I have to as coach take responsibility
for this.”

Meyer watched powerless from the stands as the most experienced starting Springboks
XV ever turned out allowed themselves to be harried into countless errors. They
never established superiority over a team that had not won a World Cup game
since 1991 against Zimbabwe.

“All credit to them (the Japanese) they did well and they hung in there,”
said Meyer.

“We knew they were going to be tough but that we had to concentrate on
the way we play. I thought four tries was going to be enough but our discipline
was not good enough.

“Their defence was brilliant, we didn’t get good enough ball and were
never on the front foot.”

Meyer denied that South Africa had been over-confident going into the game.

“Definitely not, perhaps we paid them too much respect,” said Meyer.

“Maybe we should have played more rugby but instead we got lured into
a kicking game.

“They’ve beaten us and deserve all the credit, we never got going and
chased the game.”

Japan coach Eddie Jones — who knows several Springbok players well from his
time as part of the 2007 World Cup winning coaching team — disagreed on that
point.

“The ‘Boks will come back, they are a proud group,” said Jones.

“Maybe they were elsewhere today, thinking of something else, like the
Samoa game (next Saturday) or the quarter-finals, and not on today’s game.”

Meyer admitted that the defeat had sent alarm bells ringing throughout the
squad.

“This is a very big wake up call,” he said.

“Samoa, Scotland and US are not easy teams. Its going to be tough.

“I said before it would be the toughest World Cup ever.

“We have to pull together and go through. Players and I must assume responsibility
and it is going to take a huge effort to get back on track.”

For Springbok captain Jean de Villiers the defeat was another World Cup nightmare
to add to the injury that ruled him out of the 2003 edition and the biceps injury
he suffered in the opening pool game of the 2007 renewal. That resulted in him
missing the World Cup title victory in Paris.

However, the 34-year-old centre — who only recently returned to the Test arena
after a serious knee injury and suffered a broken jaw in the defeat by Argentina
— said Meyer should not take the blame alone.

“It was just one of those performances that we can’t put a finger on,”
said de Villiers.

“We were beaten by the better team on the day and we need to takes responsibility
for this performance. It is way below the standards we set.

“It is really difficult to say where it went wrong but it was not good
enough.”

The victory was Japan’s second in the Rugby World Cup and their first since
1991. The loss for South Africa was their first ever in the opening round.

South Africa won the 1995 and 2007 Rugby World Cups and a number of bookmakers
had Japan 80/1 to win before the match.

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