Heyneke Meyer says the Springboks' preparation for the Samoa clash was more mental than anything else, reports JON CARDINELLI in Pretoria.
The Boks hammered Samoa 56-23 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, with the forwards putting in their most physical and clinical showing of the season.
Knowing Samoa's reputation for belligerence, Meyer had asked his charges for a lift in intensity and in their physical standards. The Boks were inconsistent in their previous display against Scotland, but against Samoa, they finally satisfied Meyer's brief.
'I asked for quality, I asked for physicality, and the players delivered on that promise,' said the Bok coach after the game. 'It was typical Springbok rugby, and certainly a performance to be proud of.
'I think the guys were a bit over-trained in those first two weeks [of the series]; they needed a break. That's why the build-up to the Samoa game saw less physical preparation. It was more a mental focus on what we needed to do against a very competitive team.'
The emphasis has been on the breakdown in recent weeks, and the South African management will certainly be pleased with the improvement in this facet of play.
The Boks delivered an underwhelming showing against Scotland, but were far more clinical against Samoa. They dominated the battle at the collisions, and were accurate at the breakdown. This allowed them to receive quick ball on attack, and Meyer said that the eight tries and 56 points scored by the hosts at Loftus was largely because of the dominant performance of the forwards.
Meyer said that every player deserved to be commended, but that Francois Louw and Willem Alberts made a big difference. Louw got married last week and missed the Scotland clash, while Alberts has been battling a side strain for two weeks. In their comeback match in Pretoria, both men were influential in both the ball-carrying and breakdown stakes.
'We did the basics well tonight,' said Meyer. 'Flo was brilliant on the loose ball, and Willem gave us a lot of go-forward. But one player can't be everywhere, so I have to say again that it was a great team effort.'
The Bok coach declared himself satisfied with the impact of the substitutes in the second half. Meyer has blooded a number of players over the course of this quadrangular series, and this should have benefits as he builds towards the 2015 World Cup.
While the Boks put 56 points past Samoa, Meyer believes there is still much to improve on before the Rugby Championship. Flip van der Merwe did a great job at No 5 on this occasion, and while both the lineout and the scrum functioned superbly, Meyer realises that Argentina, Australia, and New Zealand will provide more of a challenge at the set pieces.
'I always knew guys like Eben [Etzebeth] and Flip would offer physicality, but I wanted to see if they could work together in the second row. I feel Flip did well in that No 5 role, but Samoa often didn't contest at the lineout and we know that it will be far tougher in the Rugby Championship. Hopefully Flip will get more opportunities [at No 5] for the Bulls in the coming weeks.'
The Boks won't be expected to score 50 points every week, but Meyer said that he will expect a similar standard of accuracy and intensity in the coming fixtures against the All Blacks, Pumas, and Wallabies.
'We have to keep evolving. We've won three Tests and today's performance was a good one, but we have to keep improving if we're going to challenge those sides.'
Photo: Manus van Dyk/Gallo Images
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