Fresh new Boks blooded for Italy challenge
Smit wary of a tough contest against Mallett ’s men
JOHN SMIT was in reflective mood yesterday when he addressed the media and he reckons that a good performance this after noon against Italy will cap the best month he can recall for the Boks in the build-up to the Tri-Nations.
“For the first time in a long time we have used these games wisely and initiated a lot of fresh new faces into the squad, which is very valuable in terms of where we are before next year’s World Cup,” Smit said.
“It says a lot for our team that we could blood players, look at our depth, do some experimenting and still win while a soccer World Cup was raging all around us.
“I am very pleased with where we are but obviously there is still one game to go and knowing Nick Mallett like I do, Italy are going to be a very tough prospect, as they were last week.
“Nick is one of the most competitive guys I know and if he could squeeze a win against us it would rank right up there with his most satisfying achievements.” It surely will not happen. By their own admission, the Boks last week took their eye off the ball and relaxed a little too much after the big effort against France.
Italy however played the game of their lives and still lost by 16 points.
For the Boks it is a case of once bitten twice shy.
“We have a lot to put right, and it will come right because this week we will have the right attitude,” Smit said.
“We got a bit loose last weekend, the attitude and discipline was not great and with that comes the high error count.
“It is vital that we get right back on track because in the Tri-Nations we won’t get as many opportunities with the ball and so need to be sharp.
“That said, it would be a step backwards for us today if our minds are not very much on doing what is required to beat Italy.
“I suppose the two go hand in hand – if we eliminate the errors we should find ourselves in a good position to win.”
As Smit said earlier, a good win would cap a valuable preTri-Nations phase which has included a tricky visit to Cardiff and a showdown with the Boks’ bogey team, France.
“There is more to it than that,” Smit said. “Apart from blooding newcomers that excelled in the Super 14, we have been thrown a few curve balls in this June campaign and I am happy to say we have responded well.
“It has been a very different June for a couple of reasons.
“We have played at a time when it is hard to find venues and accommodation, there has been a lot of distraction, and the biggest one is that normally we have a nice long pre-season camp (often two weeks in Bloemfontein) but this year we had five days in Cardiff !” the captain said.
“We have managed to adapt to all these differences, and that is good for us as a team.
“You need to be taken out of your comfort zone now and again. If you get the same thing year in, year out you don’t learn anything new, and you get stuck in a routine that you think – but can’t be sure – will bring you success.
“This June we have been challenged in different ways and have had to try and get on with our Test routine in the background of the world’s biggest sporting event.”
But like Smit says, the gloss will come off if the Boks for two weeks in a row fail to impress against Italy.
BOK WARRIORS: The South African squad to meet Italy in East London today: (Back) Francois Louw, Dewald Potgieter, Pierre Spies, Flip van der Merwe, Danie Rossouw, Gurthro Steenkamp, Jannie du Plessis, Ruan Pienaar, (Middle) Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, BJ Botha, Morné Steyn, Wynand Olivier, Zane Kirchner, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Ricky Januarie. (Front) Jaque Fourie, Bryan Habana, Dick Muir (assistant coach), John Smit , Peter de Villiers (coach), Victor Matfield, Gary Gold (assistant coach), Jean de Villiers, Schalk Burger.