Heyneke Meyer has not worked since leaving the South Africa top job in 2015
Paris (France) (AFP) - South African Heyneke Meyer vowed to turn relegation haunted Stade Francais into “the best team in the world” at his unveiling in Paris on Monday.
The former Springbok coach will take over the reins next season – when Stade will be hoping to still be playing in the Top 14.
Champions in 2015, the Parisians have fallen on hard times and are involved in a relegation battle alongside minnows Oyonnax, Brive and Agen.
But Meyer still believes that under Swiss millionnaire owner Hans-Peter Wild, the club can bounce back to past glories.
“I never make promises that I can’t keep – I like to under-promise and over-deliver,” said Meyer.
“When I had a meeting with Doctor Wild I said to him I don’t want to go into rugby or a team if I can’t have the same vision to build the best team in the world.”
Wild, though, wasn’t so guarded about his ambitions.
“In three years we’ll be champions, perhaps it’s going to take four,” said the German-born businessman.
A 44-3 thrashing by Lyon at the weekend left Stade four points above the relegation places with two matches to play.
But they are being hunted down by an Oyonnax side that has won five of their last seven matches, while next week’s visit of rock-bottom Brive could prove decisive.
Meyer insisted that even relegation at the end of this season would not derail his ambitions.
“It doesn’t matter in which division, I’ve committed and I like a challenge,” he added.
He was South Africa coach at the last World Cup in 2015 and guided the Boks to a third-place finish, despite the humiliation of losing their opening pool match to Japan.
“Every now and then I try to forget that game,” he said, while pointing out that journalists were never slow to remind him about the 34-32 defeat.
“I let my country down, I take full responsibility for that game.”
However, he joked: “I’m a hero in Japan!”
Meyer said his appointment does not mean Stade will become flooded with South African players, the way Montpellier were under his compatriot Jake White.
“If I wanted to coach South African players I would have stayed in South Africa, I had offers,” said Meyer.
“You’re always going to look for the best players in the world.
“I’ll definitely be trying to develop young French players, and if it’s close between players you always have to go for the French.
“France rugby is healthy. Ireland won the Six Nations but it was a drop goal that made the difference (against France) and France could have been very close to Six Nations champions.”
The 50-year-old Meyer won 32 out of 48 tests in charge of South Africa, including guiding the Springboks to a first victory over New Zealand in three years in 2014.
He was widely expected to sign a contract extension following the 2015 World Cup but internal politics put paid to that.
It is widely believed that a sticking point was the racial transformation of a team that SA Rugby and the government have agreed should be half black at the 2019 World Cup in Japan.