• ‘More at stake than results’

    Jean de Villiers says the Springboks need to improve their finishing and discipline in the next two matches against Italy and Wales, reports JON CARDINELLI in Padova.

    The Boks have come through the toughest part of their four-match tour to Europe having learned some valuable lessons. They were punished for their complacency in the match against Ireland in Dublin. A week later in London, a more physical and composed performance resulted in the dismantling of England, the team that will host the 2015 World Cup.

    The hardest part of the Test season is certainly over. The Boks achieved one of their pre-season goals by beating the All Blacks at Ellis Park, and another when they overpowered England at Twickenham. However, they are not the finished article by any stretch of the imagination, and are yet to deliver the complete performance.

    De Villiers said as much at the press conference on Padova on Friday. The Boks should be expected to beat Italy this Saturday, and a weakened Wales side in Cardiff next week. What could be more significant than the result, however, is the quality of performance.

    ‘We’ve spoken about the Ireland match a lot this past week,’ said the Bok captain. ‘We didn’t pitch up mentally for that game, and we can’t afford to make the same mistake again.

    ‘That’s been the message this past week. We had a tough week of preparation in the buildup to the England game, not only physically, but mentally. This week in Padova has been much the same. We have to get everything right to ensure we are that half-second better than the opposition in terms of reaction.

    ‘Some on the outside might say we’re in a lose-lose situation this weekend,’ he continued. ‘The result is important, but we will be judged more on the commitment and attitude we show in the contest. We are looking to produce a quality performance.’

    While the showing against England was far better than the one against Ireland, De Villiers admitted the Boks are still not satisfied with where they are at. Specifically, he spoke of improving the discipline, and making more of their opportunities on attack.

    ‘We aren’t happy with the yellow cards we’ve conceded in the last two games, so obviously we need to address that. That’s put us in some tough situations. I also feel that we could do better in adapting to the referee.

    ‘There are some new guys coming into the mix who want to make an impact. But as a collective, we want to make more of our attacking opportunities. Our execution hasn’t been bad, but we have won 100% of our set phases [in the past two games], and we need to captialise on that platform.

    ‘We need to get in front early this Saturday,’ De Villiers added. ‘It’s about getting our structures right and then playing in the right areas. We have to control the pace of the game, lifting it when we need to and slowing it down when we need to. We must set the trend.’

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    Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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    Jon Cardinelli