Springboks enter crucial phase

Springbok captain Jean de Villiers says the coming tour to Europe is especially important in the context of the 2015 World Cup. JON CARDINELLI reports.

Two weeks ago, the Boks realised one of their biggest goals for the 2014 season. They beat the All Blacks.

The 27-25 result at Ellis Park marked the Boks’ first win against the old enemy in three years. It was also the first time Heyneke Meyer’s side had beaten New Zealand in six attempts.

While De Villiers admitted the win is significant and a reason why the 2014 season will be viewed as a qualified success, he also highlighted the need to improve ahead of the four-Test tour to Europe.

De Villiers wants his charges to maintain their 100% record in the northern hemisphere. The Boks won all three of their Tests on the 2012 tour, and were equally successful in late 2013.

If the Boks win the coming matches in Ireland, England, Italy, and Wales, they will travel to next year's World Cup as the only southern hemisphere team to have maintained a perfect record against the north’s best (in that period between global tournaments).

‘The reality is that we only have eight games left before the World Cup,’ said De Villiers, referring to the four Tests this November and the four that will be played in the truncated 2015 Rugby Championship.

‘It’s not a lot of time, so whatever we want to do in terms of working on combos or anything else, it has to be done now.

'There’s a good energy in this group, and we were happy with the result against New Zealand. But while we can take positives out of the last two performances against Australia and New Zealand, we also know that there is a lot we need to improve before the tour in November.

‘We let in too many tries against the All Blacks, so our defence needs to improve,’ the Bok captain continued. ‘I thought we improved on attack over the course of the competition, but there were moments when the decision-making wasn’t great.

‘You can never be good enough at the breakdown, so we will work on that. It’s a big contest in the northern hemisphere, so we need to be sharper in that area.’

For the past two weeks, De Villiers and the other contracted Boks have enjoyed a physical and mental break from rugby. On Monday, the group reunited for a training camp in Stellenbosch, and were joined by a host of other local players who are not involved in this weekend’s Currie Cup final at Newlands.

Meyer will name his 36-man squad for the tour to Europe next Monday. The squad that's currently training in Stellenbosch is a large one, and not every player will make the final cut. Meyer will also be considering a few players who are involved in the Currie Cup final at Newlands, as well as several players who are based at overseas clubs.

That said, it will serve the Boks’ purpose to train with a larger group now before the final squad departs for Europe at the start of November. There are likely to be injuries between now and the end of what is a demanding tour.

Regardless of the injury situation, Meyer may call for reinforcements ahead of that final game against Wales. The fixture in Cardiff on 29 November falls outside the IRB’s Test window, and so the players based at overseas clubs will not be available for selection.

Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

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