Boks cope in Italian cauldron

Jean de Villiers has lauded the Springboks’ discipline in what was a challenging and provocative environment, reports JON CARDINELLI in Padova.

That the Boks underperformed this past Saturday is not up for debate. Afterwards, coach Heyneke Meyer spoke about positives and the lessons that were learned from such a bruising and demanding encounter.

The unspoken message was the Boks weren’t happy with the way the game was officiated, or with Italy’s niggling tactics. This was inferred when Meyer pointed to his captain and lauded De Villiers for his leadership throughout the game.

What De Villiers did say was the breakdown was a ‘mess’. De Villiers felt the laws weren’t applied accurately or consistently.

Both the skipper and coach did their level best not to publicly denounce referee Jérôme Garcès or the Italians. They lamented the fact the Boks didn’t receive quick ball at the breakdown. Meyer and De Villiers said this impacted on the Boks’ ability to breach the gainline in the subsequent phases.

The Boks created a number of opportunities, but only finished three. De Villiers admitted that it was frustrating at times, and that this contest witnessed plenty of off-the-ball niggle. What pleased the skipper was the manner in which his players coped with that frustration.

‘The breakdown was a mess, but we need to adapt to the referee’s application of the rules to be effective,’ he said. ‘Overall, I thought the boys controlled their emotions very well. We conceded a lot of penalties I suppose, but none for poor discipline.

‘To come through a Test match like that with a win, even if it's ugly, is very satisfying. I feel there was no lacking of commitment or desire. Maybe our execution let us down, but I think we were better than the 16-point [winning] margin suggests.’

Meyer added that a number of players had proved a point in this fixture.

‘Coenie Ooshuizen scrummed brilliantly. Trevor Nyakane too. I always knew this would be a character test for these players, and they came through. They were put under pressure by one of the best front rows in the world and they were awesome.’

Meyer also made mention of debutant Nizaam Carr’s first touch. In the 57th minute, the Stormers loose forward cut the line, and then delivered an offload to Cobus Reinach. The subsequent try allowed the Boks to seize the momentum.

‘Nizaam has been running some great lines in training. I always knew this would be a tough test for him, but he has come through with flying colours,’ said Meyer.

‘Johan Goosen is another who impressed me. We are now well-covered at fullback. We ticked a lot of boxes in this match.’

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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