Boks settled and ‘raring to go’ to win crucial opening?Test

2009-06-19 00:00

SETTLED and not underdone — that is how assistant coach Gary Gold described the Springbok squad ahead of the opening Test against the British Lions at King’s Park tomorrow.

Gold dismissed South African concerns that the Springboks would be rusty and lacking match practice for what is a massive Test match.

Most of the Boks have not seen action for over a month, while two of the backs — Frans Steyn and Jean de Villiers — have been sidelined for two months.

In contrast, the Lions have been involved in an intense couple of weeks involving six matches in the build-up to the Test.

Gold, speaking in Umhlanga, that most of the players had been involved in at least 13 weeks of gruelling Super 14 rugby.

“I don’t think we are short of game time at all,” he said “and the fact that we have a settled squad will be a key factor going into the Test.

“The guys are raring to go. We have the benefit of the guys knowing each other and combinations that are established. I would much rather be in the position we are now than if we had played three or four games and picked up three or four key injuries,” he said.

Gold said victory in the first Test is critical because the losing team will have to win both Tests at altitude to bounce back.

He added that both teams would try to grind out a victory in the first Test.

“The best word to describe our approach would be ‘pragmatic’. It will be all about good decision making and taking opportunities.

“Both the Lions coaches [Ian McGeechan and Warren Gatland] prefer a similar pattern and I think the Lions will play low-risk rugby.”

Gold said the rush-defence, which both teams will employ, will be a telling factor in tonmorrow’s first Test.

“We have faced it before because we’ve played Wales four times in the last 18 months and they have the same defence coach in Shaun Edwards. The Lions will come off their line quickly and try to put us under pressure.

“It will all come down to who can exploit the other’s defence most efficiently on Saturday,” Gold said.

Bok vice captain Victor Matfield said he is looking forward to his forward battle with Lions captain and lock Paul O’Connell, but played down the rivalry.

Last week, 1974 British Lions captain Willie John McBride said O’Connell would “boss” Matfield in the lineouts.

“In the lineouts we will come up one on one, so I need to have a look at the footage to see what he likes to do.

“But in open play we will be more focused on our own structures and what we want to do,” Matfield said.

“I think Paul O’Connell has been outstanding for the past five or six years for Ireland and is a top-class player.”

Meanwhile, Springbok kicking coach Percy Montgomery has confirmed that flyhalf Ruan Pienaar and fullback Frans Steyn will share the kicking duties during Saturday’s Test.

“Ruan will take the short-range kicks and Frans will look after the long-range kicks,” said Montgomery, adding that the pair will have an advantage kicking at their home ground at King’s Park.

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