Heyneke Meyer says Springboks' defeat 'unacceptable'

The Boks went down 34-32 in Brighton on Saturday night, causing the greatest upset.

Springboks head coach Heyneke Meyer and lock Victor Matfield deliver a press conference at the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne. Picture: AFP.

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has described the team's defeat by Japan in their opening match at the rugby world cup, as unacceptable.

The Boks went down 34-32 in Brighton on Saturday night, causing the greatest upset in the tournament's history.

Japan dominated the play and forced the Springboks to make too many unforced errors, pushing them back on numerous occasions.

Ferocious tackling from Japan kept them within two points of the Springboks at halftime after driving mauls brought tries for South Africa's Francois Louw and Bismarck du Plessis, with Micahel Leitch touching down for Japan.

The Japanese team scored a last minute try to seal victory in Brighton on Saturday.

Springboks' vice-captain Victor Matfield said it's a tough loss to accept.

"It's very difficult, but we've to fix it, that's the only thing we can do. We've got a big game on Saturday against a very tough team."

But Meyer has vowed the team's performance at the world cup will improve.

Coach Meyer said he still has confidence in his team despite the poor start, adding that the only way for the Boks to redeem themselves is to go all the way and win the tournament.

The Springboks' four tries were scored by Francois Louw, Bismarck du Plessis, Lood de Jager and Adriaan Strauss. Pat Lambie kicked two conversions and a penalty goal, while Handré Pollard added a conversion and penalty goal.

"It was very disappointing, we have let our country down but we can't keep on saying that. It was a below par performance and unacceptable," said Meyer.

"All credit to the Japanese, they played right to the end. Our performance was just not good enough. We knew they were going to be tough, but we gave away too many penalties, our discipline was just not good enough.

"Their defence was brilliant. We didn't get quick ball and if you don't get quick ball you won't win.

"But it's easy to look back afterwards on the decisions made, for instance the last penalty we probably should have gone for a try. I'm not going to blame the players though, I picked the guys and have confidence in them. I take full responsibility and I still believe in these players."

Captain Jean De Villiers said: "We were beaten by a better team and as players we need to take responsibility. It was way below par and it is difficult to say exactly where it went wrong.

"It was a massive victory for Japan and I am embarrassed. All credit to Japan and the way they executed their win. We could never get comfortable and they always hung on. It feels like a massive shock to us and it's difficult to take it all in.

"We were beaten by a better team on the day. As players, we need to take responsibility and ownership. This was way below par and the standards we set for ourselves. It's difficult to say where it went wrong. It wasn't good enough, by a long shot."

Japan's bravery and tenacity was in evidence throughout the contest, but no more so than in the dying stages. Eschewing the chance to kick a penalty that would have tied the scores, Japan went in for the kill in a dramatic late onslaught that ultimately carved the opening for Hesketh to dive over in the corner.

"We always thought we could beat them," Japan coach Eddie Jones said. "It's fantastic for the team, for Japanese rugby. We worked hard for this ... It's got to go down as one of the greatest games in World Cup history."

Japan players and fans shed tears of joy at the end of a thrilling encounter that ebbed and flowed throughout, though few, if any, would have predicted defeat for the 1995 and 2007 champions.

South Africa outscored Japan four tries to three, but the kicking of fullback Ayumu Goromaru, who also scored a try for a personal 24-point tally, kept Japan in the contest to set up that remarkable final eight minutes of pressure, under which the Boks finally buckled.

Both sides exchanged a series of penalties before the Springboks snatched another try when replacement Adriaan Strauss burst through the defence. But then Japan found space out wide, sending Goromaru in at the corner; his conversion levelling the scores.

Another South Africa penalty looked like breaking Japanese hearts, only for Hesketh to grab his place in rugby history.

"It was a below-par performance and not good enough by our standards," Springbok captain Jean de Villiers said.


Former player De Wet Barry says no one, not even he could have predicted such a result.

"I was very bold and I said that they (South Africa) we going to win by a big margin. The Japanese guys played out of their skins and if they can uphold this tempo of game for the rest of the tournament they are going to upset another team."

Barry says the Japanese had a clear game plan which they stuck to.

"They obviously worked very hard on what they wanted to do and you can see their line speed from a defensive point of view they came and fetched us from behind the advantage line and that put them on the back foot the whole time. We stuggled to get momentum and it was a massive upset."

Barry says it's isn't all bad for the Boks despite the defeat.

"We have to win every game. The guys will pick it up, they will stand up from this. We've seen them lose to Argentina at home and then go over to Argentina and beating them convincingly, these guys will stand up and be back."

Additional information by Reuters