FORMER All Black No8 Murray Mexted on Wednesday defended Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer’s highly criticised game plan and said the coach needed time to settle in and develop an effective plan.
However, he acknowledged he was surprised the Boks were playing a conservative brand of rugby, given the talented players the country boasted and said if the team failed to change their style of play in the next 12 months, it would be a concern.
"In New Zealand, it is business as usual with Steve Hansen being appointed the All Black head coach, and there is no doubt the continuity achieved through that is an advantage," Mexted said at the Investec International Rugby Academy in Durban.
"That is partly one of the reasons they have been able to build on what they achieved at last year’s Rugby World Cup. But South Africa moved in a new direction by appointing a new coaching team and with that comes new strategies and players and that takes time to develop," he said.
"There has been a lot of criticism about the Boks’ game plan, but it is hard to change things and it is only fair that the coach is given time to settle in. If the team is sitting in the same situation in 12 months, however, questions could be asked."
Commenting on the Boks’ style of play, Mexted said: "I hoped the Boks would be a bit more expansive in their approach with the players they have, but history says they have been the second-best team in the world consistently in the last few years, so people can’t really complain. That said, I would like to see more flow and rhythm in their game and the players scoring tries, but then again I am a rugby purist. The days of breaking down the door (using one’s forwards to bash their way up-field) are over.
"These days teams have to find a way to get under, over and through it, so I will be watching the team with interest in the next 12 months to see if they change things."
Mexted said one of the reasons the All Blacks have been so successful in the last few years is that they have adapted well to new rugby laws and have been able to use them to their advantage. "It is important that teams analyse the laws and what they are intended to achieve, rather than adjusting despite the law changes," he said.
"One has to understand the laws and develop ways to use them to your advantage, and that is something the All Blacks have done particularly well. Another contributing factor to their success is the fact that there is a focus on the technical and mental aspects of the game from a very young age in New Zealand thanks partly to the International Rugby Academy of New Zealand."
Commenting on the quality of players coming through the domestic academy in Durban, Mexted said: "The natural talent coming through is fantastic, and it is great that we are able to nurture that talent by providing individualised coaching. This is vital for the players to reach their potential.
"In New Zealand, for example, Israel Dagg, Aaron Cruden, Cory Jane and Julian Savea are all products of our academy and we are confident that the South African academy will follow suit."