Heyneke Meyer has decided to stand down as coach after four years in charge of the Springboks.
The possibility of Meyer being offered a contract extension was due to be discussed by the South African Rugby Union general council at a meeting in Cape Town on 11 December, but he told president Oregan Hoskins and chief executive Jurie Roux he was walking away.
He considered the move to be “in the best interests of South African rugby,” after the team finished third at the recent Rugby World Cup in England, SARU said in a statement yesterday that it will search for a new coach immediately.
“I have always put the Springboks first in my time as coach, and since returning from England I have realised that as much as I believe I still have a lot to offer, the time has come for change,” Meyer said.
The decision backtracks on his stated desire at the Rugby World Cup to keep coaching the Springboks, despite growing criticism this year of his results, selections, and commitment to transformation before and during the tournament.
His predecessor, Peter de Villiers, accused Meyer of taking South African rugby “into the gutters,” then the campaign started with a 34-32 loss to Japan, one of the biggest upsets in rugby history. The Springboks rebounded to reach the semi-finals, where they were convincingly beaten by eventual winners New Zealand. After defeating Argentina in the third place play-off, Meyer intimated that he wanted to carry on, even though he said, “you can never win as coach of South Africa, but I just love coaching, I love my team, and I love my country.”
Meyer coached the Springboks in 50 matches, winning 34 of them, losing 14 and drawing two, giving him a win percentage that was second only to New Zealand among Tier One teams in the last four years.
“My integrity has always been very important, and I feel I can leave with my head held high,” he said. “I’ve always maintained that my only motivation was to serve my country, and to do what was best for the Springboks.”
His contribution was praised by Hoskins.
“Heyneke gave his all for the Springboks, and it was a great pleasure to work with such a passionate South African,” he said. “There were many highlights during his time as coach and those are the moments we will remember.
“He also set very high standards of behaviour for himself, his management team, and his players, and he was and is a credit to South African rugby. I’m sure all my colleagues join me in wishing him the very best of luck in whatever coaching path his career now takes him.”
There are no indications about what Meyer might do next, although it will not go unnoticed that new England head coach Eddie Jones has yet to announce the make-up of his coaching support staff.