Lood de Jager believes the result against Wales will determine whether the Springboks’ 2017 season is remembered as a success or as a failure. JON CARDINELLI in Cardiff reports.
The 2016 Test season will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. The Boks suffered inaugural losses to Ireland, Argentina and Italy, and incurred record defeats to New Zealand and Wales. Ultimately, Allister Coetzee’s side finished the year with the worst win record – 33% – in Bok history.
Unfortunately, 2017 has witnessed a couple of similar results. The Boks suffered their worst-ever defeat when they went down 57-0 to the All Blacks in Albany. Three weeks ago, they copped another record hiding, this time at the hands of Ireland in Dublin.
The players, however, are looking to put the past behind them. They’ve come through the subsequent matches against France and Italy with victories, and believe that they have made some progress.
The feeling in the camp is that a win against Wales would render the four-Test tour to Europe a success. Speaking from the team hotel in Cardiff on Thursday, De Jager went as far as to suggest that the entire 2017 season may hinge on the result at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.
‘In a way, it will define us. It’s our last game for the next six months. We want to end the year off well,’ De Jager said.
‘We needed to restore some pride after last year. It wasn’t up to our standards and certainly not up to the historical standards of Springbok rugby.
‘From the start of this season, we said that we had to be better on and off the field. We’re a better team now than we were at this point last year [the Boks lost 27-13 to Wales in Cardiff]. We just need to go out and execute in this final match..
‘If we get a good result on Saturday, we can be reasonably pleased with the year.’
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De Jager didn’t mince his words when talking about the challenge posed by the Wales forwards. The Bok No 5 will be up against Alun Wyn Jones, the Wales captain, at the lineout.
‘They’re a good side and have a lot of smart players. Alun Wyn Jones bends the rules a bit and gets away with a lot,’ De Jager said.
‘He’s a very good player and I rate him highly. It’s going to be a really good challenge on Saturday.’
When pushed to elaborate on Jones’s tactics, De Jager laughed. He said that he would leave it to captain Eben Etzebeth to chat to the referee about it on match day.
‘He’s a smart player. I’m not the captain, though. Eben will sort it out. I’ll just do my job.’
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