Tiger shoots 63 in Turkey
Springboks positive but also pragmatic as they square up to the Dragons of Wales
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.