Stade Francais owner backs Meyer despite Top 14 bottom spot

Paris (AFP) –


Stade Francais's billionaire owner Hans-Peter Wild on Saturday defended his South African coach Heyneke Meyer despite the club sitting bottom of the French Top 14 table with only two wins from their opening eight matches of the season.

Meyer took charge of the Parisians in 2018 after having led the Springboks to a Rugby World Cup semi-final four years ago.

But poor results in the early part of this season, when his World Cup players were all in Japan, have prompted a range of local media reports claiming he is close to being sacked.

"We have an excellent coach. We don't need to discuss the quality of our coach," said Wild ahead of Sunday's eagerly-awaited Paris derby at home to Racing 92.

"There are clubs who change their coach every two years. It's easy.

"A company is the same thing. If you have a problem, what do you do? Fire the CEO. New CEO comes in, if you're lucky he turns it around. In two years the problem is back, fire the CEO again.

"Or you have a long-term programme. I'm one who loves long-term success with the same team," he added.

Wild denied he had considered replacing 52-year-old Meyer.

"I have never planned to hire another coach. I haven't talked to Gonzalo Quesada and I haven't talked to Vern Cotter. I haven't talked to anybody," he said.

"The coach is the coach. Period," he added.

- Lost in translation -

German-born Wild, who bought the club in 2017, defended Meyer's inability to converse fluently in French but light-heartedly criticised the former Bulls boss' English.

"It's as big a problem as we make it a problem. I run companies with 15-20 nationalities, what do we do? We speak English," he said.

"There are some people who can learn languages and there are some that will never learn a language.

"There are other people like at Paris Saint-Germain, Thomas Tuchel he learnt French in two weeks. Heyneke will never learn it.

"He's not a great communicator, not even in English. I need a translator to talk to him sometimes.

"His South African accent is tough to understand. But he's a very professional and excellent coach," he added.

France centre Gael Fickou returns to the Stade Francais starting line-up for the first time since the World Cup on Sunday while former Springbok fly-half Morne Steyn is on the bench for his last game for the club before returning to Pretoria.