Boks get back in the groove

2010-11-29 00:00

VICTOR Matfield, with a broken rib but a satisfied smile, was on his way home from London yesterday, happy that the Springboks are back on track for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

The Springboks ended their grand slam tour by confounding the critics and the bookies in beating England 21-11 at Twickenham.

“On my way back to a sunny SA — so nice to get on the plane after a great performance,” the Springbok captain tweeted yesterday, confirming that he will miss the final tour game against the Barbarians on Saturday.

Matfield, both as the captain and a dominant figure in the lineouts, played a major role in the victory and he did so after breaking a rib in a first half collision which left England wing Chris Ashton with concussion. Significantly, Ashton missed a tackle which allowed Bok wing Lwazi Mvovo to run through to score the late try that sealed the Bok win.

Whether the excellent win at the end of a year of failures will save the Bok coaching staff remains to be seen, but Matfield certainly believes Saturday’s display has vindicated the game plan.

“This was a victory for our blueprint,” Matfield told the media. “It was all about us getting self-belief back in the game that we play. The guys were hurt after last weekend, but we showed the character and pride to bounce back.

“It is premature maybe to talk about this as a turnaround or a watershed and only next year will tell. But we did show that we don’t need to be following other teams and the way they play. We have our own way of playing.”

The Springbok victory was fashioned by their powerful, physical pack and an intense desire to bounce back from their limp showing and defeat by Scotland at Murrayfield.

Their superb scrumming, lineout domination and fierce commitment at the breakdown laid the platform and only a lack of cohesion on attack prevented them turning their forward superiority into a one-sided win.

Matfield admitted that after the Murrayfield defeat there had been doubts in the Bok camp about the game plan and this had resulted in a meeting between the coaches and the senior players.

“We were all honest about it and we spoke about what our strengths and what our team does well. We decided to concentrate on that, but we all had to have buy-in and believe in it. It’s all about execution and accuracy. We got it right against England and we showed what we can do.”

Coach Peter de Villiers said that the Boks had shown how difficult they were to beat when the team is on song.

“It was a big win for the country, a big win for the team.

“It’s all about believing in what you are doing.

“The game plan might seem boring to a lot of people but, if we do it well, we can get dividends from it.”

He said the self-belief was lacking in the first half on Saturday when a number of chances were not converted into points, but the confidence had started returning after the break.

The Springbok game plan is based on imposing themselves physically and then squeezing the life — and penalties — out of the opposition.

The England players had spoken all week how they would match the powerful Bok forwards but, as their manager Martin Johnson later conceded, they were no match.

“We got a lesson in the fundamentals of rugby and we just didn’t do the basics well. We made terrible mistakes under pressure.”

He said that England’s emphatic win over the Wallabies may have blinded England to the threat posed by the Boks.

“You beat Australia and everyone wants to call you the next great thing,” Johnson said.

“But we have to play Test rugby in all its forms. It’s not always going to be like the Australia game.”

And that was a point proved emphatically by Matfield’s Springboks on Saturday.

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