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Dublin: 18 °C Tuesday 23 July, 2019
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'It's like kissing your sister' - Boks not looking forward to 3rd place play-off

Head coach Heyneke Meyer wasn’t ready to provide ‘loser talk’ at Twickenham.

Murray Kinsella reports from Twickenham

IT’S DIFFICULT NOT to feel sorry for Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer, particularly when he remains an engaging, humorous presence even after his side have been beaten in a World Cup semi-final.

The Boks battled all evening at Twickenham as New Zealand secured a second consecutive appearance in the final of the global tournament with a 20-18 win, but Meyer was left in dejection after a wild ride of a World Cup.

Fourie du Preez dejected after the game Captain Fourie du Preez and the Boks came up short. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

There was pride for the 48-year-old in how his Boks rebuilt themselves following their opening game defeat to Japan in the pool stages, a reconstruction that ended with them missing out on the final by a single score.

Speaking post-match in Twickenham, Meyer pointed to his side’s inability to adapt to the rain in the second half as pivotal, as well as highlighting a lack of discipline after the break. He was also gracious in crediting the Kiwis for their strong performance.

“I’m very proud, I don’t think anyone gave us a chance,” said Meyer of how his team responded to that loss to Japan. “I believe that we’ve grown as a team, the guys showed leadership and the youngsters really matured. I’m very, very proud of the guys, but only a win is good enough for South Africa and me as a coach.

I don’t believe in loser talk. We gave everything, it wasn’t good enough and it will never be good enough if I coach to South Africa to come close and don’t win. We’re proud of where we came from, but we had a chance today and we should have taken it. We should have been in the final. I’ll never settle for second best.

“If you lose, you lose. I don’t care if it’s by one point or 50 points, it’s not good enough.”

Sitting alongside Meyer, back row Schalk Burger had the weariness of a man who had put his body through an exceptional workload.

The 32-year-old flanker has had a barely-believable journey to be involved in a World Cup semi-final at all, but that will provide little solace for him this evening.

“I’ve seen this movie before and it’s bloody horrible,” said Burger. “So, so close and obviously it’s a little bit difficult to chat now because we gave a big effort and would have liked to go a bit further in this competition. The All Blacks were just a little bit better.”

When Meyer and the Boks looks for positives from this World Cup, it is the performances of their youngsters that will stand out.

Sonny Bill Williams consoles Jesse Kriel after the game Sonny Bill Williams with Jesse Kriel after the game. Source: Photosport/Andrew Cornaga/INPHO

21-year-old out-half Handré Pollard was excellent against the Kiwis, while 21-year-old centre Jesse Kriel also had some fine moments. Others such as Damien de Allende (23), Lood de Jager (22), Frans Malherbe (24) and Eben Etzebeth (23) will all be better for the experience too.

Meyer pointed to that fact when answering a question about his own immediate plans. The head coach has been linked with a contract extension until the 2019 World Cup, but so far nothing has been officially confirmed.

“Can’t you see how grey I am?” said Meyer with a smile. “I’m there to serve and whatever it takes, I’m very disappointed about tonight. I’m just thinking about today now and I’m always there to serve. I only wanted to make the country proud, not me.

I truly believe that we had our chances. 80 or 90% of our team can still be here in the next World Cup, and it’s not just about World Cups. I really believe that this team can go places. I think it’s going to be one of the best teams in the world going forward.”

Before the Boks look to the future, there is the unappetising prospect of the third-place play-off on Friday night in Olympic Park.

Asked who he expects to advance from tomorrow’s second World Cup semi-final, Meyer shrugged his shoulders.

“I’m probably not the right guy to ask, I couldn’t even get my own game right tonight,” said Meyer. “You could probably ask the guy in the street, I don’t know. All I care about is my game and it wasn’t good enough.

“I’ve been where you play for third and fourth, which is mentally very tough because it doesn’t mean anything for me. It’s like kissing your sister. Anything else for me is loser talk.”

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Murray Kinsella

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