Tiger shoots 63 in Turkey

Spring­boks pos­i­tive but also prag­matic as they square up to the Drag­ons of Wales

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT - MIKE GREEN­AWAY

THIS week the lo­cal news­pa­pers have been burst­ing with sto­ries from the Welsh rugby camp about to­day’s much-an­tic­i­pated clash be­tween the home team and South Africa. There has been much talk about the Drag­ons slay­ing the Spring­boks. A lit­tle too much talk, per­haps, and yes­ter­day Spring­bok cap­tain Jean de Vil­liers gave a can­did smile and said: “We will do our talk­ing on the field”.

To be fair to the Welsh, the mood in the prin­ci­pal­ity is not one of ar­ro­gance or boast­ful­ness – just happy op­ti­mism that they have the team to beat Southern Hemi­sphere op­po­si­tion for the first time since 2008, when they beat Aus­tralia in Cardiff.

Un­der coach War­ren Gat­land, they have won just one of 22 Test matches against South Africa, New Zealand and Aus­tralia. But the Welsh mood is chip­per in 2013. They thumped Eng­land 30- 3 in Cardiff in March to win the Six Na­tions and then pro­vided the ma­jor­ity of the play­ers and man­age­ment for the Li­ons squad that hu­mil­i­ated the Wal­la­bies in June.

“A lot has been said in the me­dia, we have taken note,” De Vil­liers said, adding that he had no­ticed an un­usual amount of hype for this match com­pared to pre­vi­ous vis­its.

“Wales must pre­pare in what­ever way they want and say what­ever they want. That is up to them,” the cap­tain said. “For us, it is just busi­ness as usual. It is an­other mas­sive Test against a top-qual­ity team and we know that to win, we have to de­liver our best pos­si­ble rugby for 80 min­utes, and af­ter the game we will as­sess how we have played and make our state­ments...

“But we know what we are ca­pa­ble of and we know we are as well pre­pared for this game as we were for any in the Rugby Cham­pi­onship. Maybe we are even bet­ter pre­pared...”

De Vil­liers is al­lud­ing to the fact that the Boks are com­ing off a more than sat­is­fac­tory cam­paign in which they beat Aus­tralia and Ar­gentina home and away and per­formed with distinc­tion against the All Blacks.

“This team has come a long way in the last cou­ple of months,” he said. “We have im­proved dras­ti­cally in cer­tain ar­eas (es­pe­cially on at­tack), and hope­fully we can take that into the game. Ob­vi­ously we did not end the Cham­pi­onship on a high af­ter los­ing at home to New Zealand but we took a lot of pos­i­tives out of that game. We are not go­ing to re­treat into our shells be­cause of the con­di­tions in the north, but we are also not go­ing to be stupid with our tac­tics.”

In other words, the Boks will be pos­i­tive but also prag­matic. It has rained the en­tire week and although the sta­dium roof will be closed this evening, the ground will still be wet and heavy un­der­foot af­ter ex­po­sure to the el­e­ments.

“We are not fussed about con­di­tions,” De Vil­liers said.

“The ba­sic game plan stays ex­actly the same and it has been more or less the same now for al­most two years ( since Heyneke Meyer took over). The way we play in the wet and the way we play in the dry are no dif­fer­ent – it is just the de­ci­sion-mak­ing that needs to be bet­ter when con­di­tions are un­com­fort­able. Maybe in the wet you kick ear­lier in your phase play whereas in the dry you will kick later.”

De Vil­liers ad­mit­ted that the suc­cess of this tour hinged on a vic­tory for the Boks to­day.

“For a suc­cess­ful tour we need to start well and beat Wales,” he said. “Your first game is al­ways your tough­est, and af­ter that your sec­ond game is the tough­est ... which­ever game is be­fore you is the one that counts, and for us now, that is Wales. They are con­fi­dent and their play­ers are tak­ing a lot from how they played on the Li­ons tour. It will be a tough bat­tle.”

But De Vil­liers then added a rider ....

“But we are not play­ing the Li­ons, we are play­ing Wales. You can take a fair amount out of the Li­ons se­ries, but it is not the same team. Some cru­cial play­ers in the Li­ons are not play­ing against us. In say­ing that, they be­lieve the Li­ons se­ries win is rel­e­vant, and they will be up for this game... but so will we.”


UP FOR IT: Bryan Ha­bana gets the feel for the pitch as the Boks train at the Mil­len­nium Sta­dium ahead of to­day’s Test against Wales.

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