‘Springboks were a desperate team’

What former Springbok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Boks’ match against Argentina in Buenos Aires.

‘We just needed to take a win, any win. This was a much better performance, just starting with the scrummaging, we won four or five excellent penalties. With Argentina missing [Marcos] Ayerza, that was very significant for them, he caused all the problems for our scrum last weekend.

‘Jannie [du Plessis] didn’t play that game last weekend, [Vincent] Koch played and he is probably the guy who suffered the most over these last two weekends. Bismarck [du Plessis] is going to go to the World Cup, as is Beast [Mtawarira], and Jannie will be tighthead. There’s still [Frans] Malherbe obviously, Trevor [Nyakane] did a good job, and I think Marcel [van der Merwe] has played himself into that third prop position. But it was slightly unfair on Koch last weekend because Ayerza wasn’t playing, he’s a very powerful scrummager.

‘I think the Springboks decided to have more of a tactical kicking game, which they particularly showed in the first 20 minutes of the game. [Pat] Lambie only really made two mistakes, he kicked out on the full with one cross-kick and he missed one long kick for touch, otherwise he had a fantastic game. But [Handré] Pollard must be feeling a bit bitter because he didn’t get ball of the same quality that Lambie got today. I just think it’s very good for South African rugby that we won this game and going back to the last few years, we’ve always struggled away [in Argentina] … So let’s take the win and build on it because this team needed it big time going into the World Cup.

‘I’m not going to discuss the captaincy issue. That’s obviously a decision that will be taken based on Jean de Villiers’s health, I thought Schalk [Burger] did really well when he captained the team, and Victor [Matfield] has done a good job. So we’ve got enough leaders to take us to the World Cup. I think what’s more important is that South Africa does not play well when we don’t have a fire up our backside. If we are not under pressure, the guys don’t play with as much aggression as we saw this time. Going into the third game [of the Rugby Championship], we heard a lot about how well we’d played against Australia, but we lost, how well we played against New Zealand, but we lost. It was a complacent team that ran out in Durban and we were thoroughly spanked. What was good this time is that it wasn’t a complacent team, it was a desperate team, and our defence was outstanding.

‘I don’t think you can say everything is alright now. I think Ashwin [Willemse] made a good point when he said Argentina is a team capable of beating any team with a one-off performance, and we’re capable of playing badly enough to lose to any team with a one-off performance. Going into the World Cup we have to avoid that one-off poor performance we had last weekend because at the last World Cup we could have lost to Wales [in a pool match], and last year we lost against Wales and Ireland [on the end-of-year tour]. And against Argentina away we’ve had a couple of close shaves. You don’t often see New Zealand playing three or four poor games in a row.

‘Having been there myself, I know how Heyneke [Meyer] would have been feeling over the past week. You’ve just got the whole world on your shoulders and this past week must have been terribly difficult, and all you want to get is the win so that you can get a bit of pressure off your shoulders and so that you can go to the World Cup with something positive to talk about.

'He [Meyer] has said the way they’re going to win the World Cup is by having to grind out victories. You’re not going to beat Australia, New Zealand, France, Ireland or England by 40 points, you’re going to beat them by less than seven points. So you have to show character, and the big issue now is selection, there are some very interesting selection decisions ahead and that’s what they are going to have to apply their minds to.’

Photo: Gabriel Rossi/Gallo Images

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Nick Mallett