Fresh new Boks blooded for Italy chal­lenge

Smit wary of a tough con­test against Mallett ’s men

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - MIKE GREENAWAY

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.

GALLO IM­AGES

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.

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