Heyneke Meyer believes the Springboks can no longer rely solely on physical dominance to win matches.
South African rugby has long been built on the premise that dominating the collisions is a prerequisite for success at international level. That by smashing your opponent backwards, you will in turn move forward and provide the platform for your outside backs to express themselves. The problem comes in when that physical dominance is nullified and the players have to use different means to gain the ascendancy.
Under Meyer, the Springboks have evolved. While structure has its merits, the coach has given his players the freedom to express themselves, to think on their feet, and they have flourished.
'We scored the most tries in the world last year, and also scored a number during the June Tests. So, in that respect, we got one thing right,' said Meyer on Monday. 'All the teams have big, powerful players now so you can't outmuscle anyone anymore. You need to out-think them, be physical and skillful. Only then can you outplay them.'
Meyer intends for his side to play an aggressive, attack-oriented game during the Rugby Championship, where fitness will play a key role. While the Crusaders and Waratahs battled it out for Super Rugby supremacy over the weekend, Meyer's Boks were getting some much-needed rest.
'Conditioning wise we're probably ahead. A lot of the guys have had a few weeks off, so they look fresh and in peak condition. The Sharks, though, haven't had as much time off as the other teams.
'We're going to have to work hard in the next two weeks. To be No 1 we're going to have to do a lot of improving.
'The thing is when fatigue sets in then the skills go, the defence goes. Nowadays the ball is in play for much longer than before. It's quick, open, running rugby, played at a high tempo.'
Despite their fluent attacking game, the Boks left some bonus points out on the field during last year's Rugby Championship. They entered their final match against the All Blacks at Ellis Park needing five log points, after failing to pick up bonus points in victories over Argentina away and Australia at home. It's a situation that Meyer is looking to avoid this year.
'I believe it's going to be the toughest Rugby Championship yet and it's probably going to go down to bonus points. We need to fire from the start, from the first game.'
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