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Jon Cardinelli

Boks managed to peak in Paris


Heyneke Meyer at Springbok training Heyneke Meyer at Springbok training

Heyneke Meyer has taken precautions to ensure that the Boks are mentally and physically ready for the last two Tests of 2013, reports JON CARDINELLI in Edinburgh.

It's been a long and taxing year for South Africa's elite players, and nobody is more mindful of the fact than the Bok coach.

Meyer said at the start of the tour that he had learned from the mistakes of 2012. While the Boks won all three games on last year's tour to Europe, Meyer felt he had erred by pushing the players too hard in midweek training.

The training schedule for the current tour has been trimmed, and the players and coaches have noted the difference. The decision to visit Old Trafford last Sunday for the Premier League clash between Manchester United and Arsenal also proved a welcome mental break for a group whose predominant focus is rugby.

With the 24-15 win against Wales last week, the Boks have cleared the first major hurdle of this three-Test tour. They should beat Scotland comfortably this Sunday, and there is little doubt that the third game against France in Paris will be more challenging.

Following the win in Cardiff, Meyer has managed his players with the Paris Test in mind. While the Boks are not taking the Scots lightly, the eight-day turnaround has provided a few players with an opportunity to rest and recuperate.

For example, Willem Alberts and Morné Steyn, who are carrying a shoulder and back injury respectively, may still feature in Sunday's game thanks to an extra day's rest.

Jean de Villiers is recovering from a bad bout of flu, but is also expected to play. The Bok captain said on Saturday that while the training schedule has been amended, the team has prepared well.

He also realises that things will be more intense when they head to Paris next week. The Boks will arrive in the French capital on Monday, and will have their first training session only on Tuesday. That has clearly been factored into the planning.

De Villiers refused to say it outright, but the Boks are chasing a rare win on French soil. The last time the Boks beat Les Bleus in France was back in 1997.

STAYING MENTALLY SHARP

This does not mean the Boks will take the Scots any less seriously this Sunday. They made the mistake in Nelspruit last June, and when they lost to the Scots at Murrayfield back in 2010.

They may have enjoyed a less strenuous build-up than in the past, but De Villiers feels they will be mentally up for the challenge at Murrayfield.

'It's an easy game to slip up in, but we feel we've prepared well,' he said. 'We will expect everything and anything from Scotland. Maybe we got caught with our pants down in that Nelspruit game, but we know what to expect.

'You play 12 Tests in a year, and you have to make sure you're up for every one [mentally]. And if I think of two where we played poorly, it was in Nelspruit and in Mendoza [against Argentina].

'We've improved since then and are still chasing that 100% performance. And after what happened against Scotland before, we know that we have to start well and maintain that standard for 80 minutes.'

Should Alberts and Steyn fail to recover, Meyer will push Siya Kolisi into the starting side and bring somebody like Jan Serfontein on to the bench.

The strongest possible team, however, will be selected for that tour-defining game against France in Paris next Saturday.

Photo: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

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