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South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer still hurting despite third-place finish

Published 30/10/2015

South Africa head coach Heyneke Meyer guided his side to a third-placed finish
South Africa head coach Heyneke Meyer guided his side to a third-placed finish

Heyneke Meyer has admitted he will always blame himself for South Africa not winning the 2015 World Cup.

The Springboks boss insists South Africa's class of 2019 will be well-placed for glory, but accepted he may never fully get over his personal semi-final heartbreak.

South Africa powered past Argentina 24-13 to secure a third-place World Cup finish, with Meyer in reflective mood given his future remains up in the air.

The Springboks squad have backed Meyer's candidacy to continue, but the 48-year-old could yet move into a youth development role.

"Part of me still feels we were good enough to be there tomorrow in the final," said Meyer, still looking back to the 20-18 loss to New Zealand.

"We were so close. I'll always look back and think 'what could I have done better to get the medal'.

"We've been so close, I think this team can be invincible going forward.

"We've got some of the best youngsters in the world.

"In four years, and even another year they will be a different team.

"I really hope we can keep them together.

"A lot of these guys will be heroes going forward, heroes for their country and superstars in the game.

"If you start to aim for third place and start jumping up and down about that, then you shouldn't be coach of South Africa.

"In saying that we are extremely proud of what we've done."

Meyer revealed he withdrew Bryan Habana in the late stages of the second half due to the winger suffering cramp.

Habana botched four chances to break Jonah Lomu's all-time World Cup try record of 15 against the Pumas.

At 32 the Toulon wing is unlikely to have another chance at the record in the Japan 2019 tournament.

"I just felt that Bryan was cramping, so it wasn't my call," said Meyer of Habana's substitution.

"Most of the backs were cramping, so it was tough decisions.

"Bryan came off because he couldn't play any further.

"Also every single guy deserved to get on the field."

Meyer branded contesting the third-place play-off "like kissing your sister" after semi-final defeat to the All Blacks.

The former Blue Bulls coach admitted he had slight regrets over the comment after South Africa's victory over Argentina.

"I felt bad afterwards, I didn't mean it as such," said Meyer.

"But you feel if your heart's been ripped out.

"At that moment you only feel about losing the chance to be world champions.

"Maybe it came out wrong, but I'm just so proud we could come back and win this game."

Victor Matfield turned back time for a vintage showing in his 127th and final Test at the age of 38, before insisting Habana's chances of breaking Lomu's try record are not over.

"Oh, four years, maybe Bryan can make it," said Matfield.

"If I can play to 38 he can probably play another four years.

"Bryan's an outstanding player, scoring the most tries to equal Jonah Lomu is fantastic.

"Probably tonight I think he just wanted it too much.

"There were so many opportunities and he was so close."

Meyer then hailed evergreen lock Matfield as South Africa's greatest-ever player, and for transforming Test-match lineout play.

"He's one of the greatest ever to play the game," said Meyer.

"I don't think there's a lot of people who could take that chance to come back.

"Some people talk about dreams, others make them come true.

"It was a special moment for me that he ended this game as captain, and I was involved.

"He's probably the best lineout jumper of all time.

"He helped the whole world and was way ahead of his time.

"It shows the character of the man to come back.

"He took the chance, played another two years, and has been excellent tonight.

"He looks stubborn but is actually a shy guy.

"He will go down as probably the best player ever to play for South Africa."

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