Jean de Villiers says the Springboks must improve their kicking and game management if they are to beat a dangerous Ireland side this Saturday, reports JON CARDINELLI in Dublin.
Earlier this week, Bok coach Heyneke Meyer said there was more to be gained from the four-Test tour to Europe than results alone. Meyer demanded that the Boks improve in several areas, the tactical-kicking game chief among those.
The Boks edged the All Blacks 27-25 on 4 October. What most fans will remember is the outstanding attacking display by the Boks in the first 40 minutes, and that dramatic final penalty goal by reserve flyhalf Pat Lambie at the death.
Like most, the Boks have been encouraged by that result. They are, however. more honest about the standard of the performance and the patent lack of consistency over the 80 minutes. Having led 21-13 at half-time, they were overrun by the All Blacks in the second stanza. This is something they aim to address on the tour to the northern hemisphere.
‘Our territorial game wasn’t good enough in that Test,’ admitted De Villliers from the team’s base in Dublin on Friday. ’We got caught in our own territory in the second half, and it’s difficult to win games from that position.
‘We were lucky that we had a big lead to pull us through. We want to be able to move on from that, and put pressure on teams once we are 15 points up.’
Injuries have forced Meyer’s hand at scrumhalf ahead of the Test against Ireland, and the rest of the tour. Francois Hougaard may be a dangerous attacking player, but he doesn’t boast the tactical nous nor the kicking game of Fourie du Preez and Ruan Pienaar.
Meyer has opted to stick with Handré Pollard at No 10. The Bok coach feels that the 20-year-old needs to be exposed to the conditions and pressure in the northern hemisphere stadiums before the 2015 World Cup. On Saturday, Pollard will need to deliver not only as an attacking player, but as a tactical one as well.
‘The challenge is two-fold,’ said De Villiers. ‘Firstly it’s about adapting to the conditions, and secondly it’s about adapting to the team we’re facing. Where do they give us opportunities on attack … it’s about identifying space and then making a decision about keeping the ball in hand or kicking in behind. We have got the ability to play any sort of game, and it comes down to decision-making on the day.’
De Villiers shared Meyer’s sentiments about Pollard. Much is expected of the youngster in these conditions, and yet, the coach and captain feel it would be counterproductive to put the youngster under too much pressure before kick-off.
‘He has shown that he can make the big plays in the big situations. He will make mistakes on Saturday, but it’s about learning from that. That’s where we come in as senior players. If he makes mistakes, we have to make sure he forgets about it as soon as possible,’ said De Villiers.
The Irish press may be playing down the hosts’ chances this weekend, but De Villiers said the Boks are wary of 'a quality Ireland team that has grown under Joe Schmidt'.
‘We won’t underestimate them, they’re the Six Nations champions, they should have beaten the All Blacks last year. Why would we underestimate them? We have to be at our best.
‘This is the most important game of the year. We need to start our tour on a high.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images